Second Sunday of Advent - 2022

Sr. Makrina Finlay, OSB

“Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips…” Isaiah 11:5

Reflecting on this first reading from Isaiah, and especially this verse, I think about the Yezidi refugees who live in our monastery; survivors of a genocide that ISIS committed in 2014. For years now I have heard about their harrowing experiences; how their friends and relatives were killed and enslaved; how ISIS capped trees, stopped up wells and destroyed houses. Most who survived did so because they found refuge on their sacred Mount Shingal.

In October when I was in Shingal, I saw all of this destruction first hand but also saw holy places that they have rebuilt, trees that they have planted and wells that they have restored. It has been eight years since the initial devastation. Recovery is slow, aid is hard to come and it leaves me asking not only why? but also: what would their lives be like; what would the world be like if we all cinched ourselves up with justice and faithfulness?

The picture that Isaiah paints in this text presents an ideal: a sacred mountain where old stumps have living roots that can sustain life, where predator and prey live in harmony, where children have no need to fear. It is a return to paradise, to the way things ought to be.

And the picture of John the Baptist in today’s gospel is that of a person who was clearly frustrated with the lack of vision he saw in the world and the religious leaders of his day: “You brood of vipers” he called them. What a contrast to the picture in Isaiah of a place where a child can play next to a den of snakes without getting harmed. He must have been thinking to himself: Humanity and all of creation was intended for more.

What strikes me more than anything, is that his primary message is not one of fear or threats but of hope: He knows that he is not the one to save the world but that he has a role in preparing for the one. That all of us have a part to play.

 “On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” That is what these weeks of advent are helping us to see. I see it viscerally when I am in Shingal and the new trees are in bloom, the garlic sprouts up. The day is coming, the kingdom of God is at hand. Let us find our part in the story. Let us make straight the paths for the Lord –  and for the image of Christ in all his Creation as we move forward through Advent so that “on that day” the Christ child may manifest himself in our lives.