Memorial of St. John Damascene, Bishop and Doctor
We don’t have to look hard to find reasons to despair. When Isaiah wrote the words from today’s reading, he certainly had plenty. At the time he wrote, Israel was embarking on a war it would eventually lose, culminating in the siege of Jerusalem. In the midst of it all, however, Isaiah still wrote words of intense hope–that “the blind will see,” “the tyrant will be no more,” and all will “be in awe of the God of Israel.” Strange words from a man watching his country go over a ledge.
But hope is not optimism. Optimism is based on a sunny disposition that all will be well. Hope is based on an experience of God’s gracious care for us, even when all is far from well. Advent is a season of hope. The readings we hear throughout this time promise us goodness in the world to come. But there is a danger that the promises we hear can come across as empty–nothing more than abstract pieties. If we look back on our lives and see how God has already given us His grace, and already started to fulfil these promises to us in concrete ways, we can see the power and reality of what we hear. Seeing how God works in reality, we too can stand in the midst of crisis and still have Isaiah’s hope.