“Hope” by Colleen O’Sullivan
On that day, a shoot shall
sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots, a bud shall blossom. Then
the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the
kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to
guide them. (Isaiah 11:1, 6)
Tree of Jesse Tympanum, St.
Peter’s Cathedral, Worms, Germany, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Turning to the disciples in private, he said, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.” (Luke 10:23-24)
Wait for the Lord Taizé
Wait for the Lord, whose day is near;
Wait for the Lord, keep watch, take heart!
Many people find winter a depressing or gloomy time of year. The days are shorter. Darkness comes earlier. It’s colder outside, and we find ourselves spending more time indoors. This year, on top of the usual winter complaints, we have to contend with COVID-19. So perhaps today’s Scripture readings are more needed than ever.
Isaiah’s words invite us to envision a tree stump. Maybe you have one in your back yard. Or perhaps you’ve seen them in the woods. A stump is sad, stripped of its trunk, its branches, its sap – all that gives it health and life. The prophet says that one day that Jesse’s lifeless stump, who was the father of King David, will show signs of renewed life. A shoot of greenery will grow from the deadwood, followed by a flower bud that eventually becomes something of great beauty.
Isaiah is speaking of the hope for and promise of a Savior to come. He tells us the Savior will be from the house of David. The Spirit will rest upon this longed-for Messiah, giving him wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, and reverence for the Lord. The poor and the afflicted will be treated justly by this Savior in contrast to how the world around us treats them. Justice and faithfulness will be the clothing of this anointed one.
Isaiah’s message was good news for the Lord’s people. Exile had stripped them of a great deal. Israel was only a shadow of its former self. The salve for those wounds was the hope for a Savior.
To those suffering from COVID-19 and to all grieving the loss of loved ones, as well as those who have lost businesses, livelihoods, or merely the ability to go out and mingle with others as we wish, Isaiah’s words should remind us that we have a Savior. We are not a people without hope. We have a Lord who loves us and seeks to comfort us in all our sufferings.
Jesus reminds his disciples and us in today’s Gospel that we are fortunate. As a babe born into poverty, Jesus Christ came into the world, grew up eager to invite all into his Father’s Kingdom, and died out of love for us, freeing us from slavery to our sins. He rose that we might share in his Resurrection. We who are believers know all these things in our hearts.
But, Jesus says, some believe the world’s riches and power are all they need. All they ever see is a child born into poverty, who died an ignominious death by crucifixion. Their hearts are full of their exploits and possessions. The eyes and ears of their hearts see and hear only themselves, and that isn’t much to survive on.
Jesus asks us to be his hands in the world, reaching out to those in need. Please check out Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington to see how you can help those whose lives have been negatively impacted by Covid-19. You will need to scroll down several lines to see what Catholic Charities is doing and precisely how you can help.