Turkana pastoralists tending their goats.
By: Fr. Mariano Tibaldo mccj
The prophet Isaiah, that we read during the season of Advent, speaks of a bright future, a time of justice and peace for the people of Judah. A message of hope, consolation and confidence for a small, oppressed and demoralized people: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be discouraged, for I am your God.”
Not that the bright future prophesized by Isaiah was already present, far from it; not even the first glimmers of light were visible, as when one sees the dim light of dawn on the horizon, beyond the mountains while still the plain is plunged in darkness. And yet this message of hope and consolation made the people face seemingly insurmountable problems with courage and stand up and fight for a better future. What God, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, gave the people of Judah was not the solution of their problems but a purpose to live, struggle, build the future.
When I was in Africa and saw how people in slums or villages struggled for survival against disease, hunger or insecurity, I was struck by the words that always surfaced on their lips, ‘God is there.’ Not words of those who surrendered to an inescapable and cruel fate, but an act of trust in life, in the future and in God’s presence.
To give meaning to our present life, to suffering, illness, and even death with words of consolation and hope is what God’s word offers us in the season of Advent and Christmas. Striving for a better world knowing that my contribution, however small it may be, will surely produce a positive result in the future, is part of the dimension of hope because all the good we can accomplish is hidden in the mystery of the Eternal Loving God and therefore has a dimension of eternity. “To suffer with the other and for others; to suffer for the sake of truth and justice; to suffer out of love and in order to become a person who truly loves, these are fundamental elements of humanity, and to abandon them would destroy man himself” writes Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical letter ‘Spe Salvi’.
The message of Advent and Christmas is therefore a message of hope, consolation and trust, trust in a ‘life-loving’ God, trust in the future, trust that the good we have sown will definitely bear fruit, trust that ‘death will be conquered by life,’ trust that ‘in God all things are possible’ — even changing the course of history through a defenseless Child wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger.
My wish is that the “God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 15:13)
Fr. Mariano Tibaldo mccj