Sunday of the second week of Advent, 2022
It has been an odd winter in Northern Nevada. Climate change scientists tell us that many of our winters going forward will not have a familiar look or feel. The trees around town clutched their green leaves long into November, and those that did begin the slow change to autumn, resisted surrender even after the first snowfalls. Neighbors scratch their heads and comment that “things just aren’t supposed to be this way.”
Today’s reading of Isaiah 11: 1–10 frames our conversation similarly. “On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump…and from his roots a bud shall blossom…” Wait, these things shouldn’t be happening either! A bud blossoming from a root? A bud belongs on a branch. A shoot sprouting from a stump that had long-since given up being a tree? Really, much of this entire reading makes no predictable sense.
Here, dichotomies and contrasts, opposites and ironic pairings are proposed to us and seem to be signs pointing to a better world; a world, in fact, that we long for in our deepest hearts. A hope where peace is not the logical outcome to conflict, and harmony, never a presumed consequence. Yet, this is unequivocally God’s territory! It is the Divine, who brings about counter-intuitive realities which delight and restore our confidence by inviting us to hope with more abandon, next time.
In the critical, compassionate work we do at Catholic Charities, we see contrasts and ironies every day. People have stopped hoping and still they come to us. We encounter daily the undeniable persistence that springs from even the most tested heart. By articulating personal scarcity, our guests walk away in abundance!
We are convinced that God bends mercifully toward the poor. This is our daily message for those we help. Yet are we completely convinced of this truth for ourselves? As an ambassador of Divine Love, do I believe this love enough to surrender all that resists healing within my own heart?
Our guests model total trust in a providence which defies logic. Their example rings with the message that the Light is coming, a Light which defies darkness.
On the road to Bethlehem, journeying to the manager where a Virgin gives birth to a child, all things become possible. There along the way, a bud is growing from a root and a shoot springs forth from a barren stump.
Monique Jacobs serves joyfully as Director of Mission and Identity at Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada.