Today’s first reading ends with a promise from God: “Though the mountains leave their place and the hills be shaken, my love shall never leave you.” (Isaiah 54:10)
Who among us has not felt abandoned in times of distress? We all carry wounds from what we have done and what others have done to us. We may be discouraged by this hardship, struggle, and darkness. Still Isaiah reminds us that no matter our circumstances, and no matter what our past, we are promised God’s continual gift of encouragement, mercy, and steadfast love. Advent takes hold in my heart when I am led to a place of hope, especially when life is hard.
This grace and mercy rarely just drop from the sky with a parachute of love. The ongoing mystery of the incarnation is that Christ wants to be born in each of our hearts. We at Catholic Charities are called to bring Christ’s hope to the marginalized. For our neighbors who are discouraged, have lost hope, and who feel like God has given up on them, we are called to be God’s instrument and healing balm. We are to become the channels through which others may experience God’s redeeming, restoring love.
Our call is to become more like John the Baptist: bold, courageous messengers of the promise of light. We provide opportunities for life-affirming action to respond to perplexing social issues and unjust systems. We do this systemically and personally. We prepare the way and path of Jesus as we extend encouragement and love to our neighbors in need.
And here is the double-edged fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. Through my more than thirty years with Catholic Charities, I have seen time and time again that the gift we give to others returns again and again to bless us. Giving in love to others may exhaust us, but it doesn’t have to deplete us. In binding up the wounds of others, I have found my own wounds healing. What a wondrous gift is given!
Peggy Arizzi has spent her entire career with the Catholic Charities network serving in four different Catholic Charities agencies in various direct service and leadership roles. She is currently serving as Vice President of Programs & Services with Catholic Charities USA.