Reflection for the Vigil of the Second Sunday of Advent 2015

December 5, 2015

Readings: Isaiah 52: 7-10; Luke 3:1-6

by Sister Eleanor Suther, OSB

Sister Eleanor Suther“How beautiful on the mountain are the feet of those who bring glad tidings…”

I haven’t usually thought of feet as beautiful, having feet at least a size beyond those of "darling Clementine."

What is it about these feet on the mountain? If you are standing on the mountain, you can see a long way ahead. What you see on the mountain is more than someone on the plain can see. You get to see the big picture. And these feet are not just enjoying the view. They are bringing glad tidings.

Recently Pope Francis, speaking to the church in Italy, said that we should not just think of this as an “era of changes”, but as a “change of era.”

That’s what Israel’s prophets were doing, those feet on the mountain top, bringing good news. They could see a new era beyond the oppression the people were experiencing at the time. That new era would be for them like a New Exodus.

 That’s what John the Baptist was doing: announcing a new era, inviting people to change, not just ways, but their hearts. Luke situates John the Baptist right in the middle of the oppression of the time. He names the rulers of the day, among them names we recognize from the Passion narratives: Tiberias, Pontius Pilate, Herod, which, in the end, point to the Resurrection, which changes everything.

 Many of us can remember other eras, like the Great Depression, World War II or the Cold War, each with its mind sets which grew out of the conflicts and sufferings of the era. Our current era of “free enterprise” with its gods of profit and self-indulgence and individualism is now threatened both by the rise of terrorists from oppressed populations, and by the warming of the planet.

 Like John the Baptist, Pope Francis is calling us back to the Gospel vision, and the vision of Catholic Social Teaching. He is calling us to repent, to change our ways, to let the love and mercy of God flow through us to create a world of justice and peace.

 John the Baptist was not issuing a call to arms. There were compatriots, the Zealots, who were doing that. He was not calling them to the desert. That was the response of the Qumran community. John the Baptist was calling for a change of hearts, to be awake to the coming of God.

How can our feet be beautiful…number 9’s and all? We, as the Body of Christ, can bring the compassion and love of Christ to every encounter. For the young people here it may be bringing the good news of God’s love for all people through the choice of a career or vocation that brings hope and healing to the planet. For all of us, it is a call to create that new era through the way we reverence one another and all creation. We can count on the power of Christ to work through us. Can we be awake to the Christ who wants to act through us?

Will our feet be beautiful on the mountains?