When was the last time you heard really good news, the kind of good news that changed your life?
It could have been when you found out you or a loved one was going to have a baby. It could have been that you were accepted into the school you had always dreamed of attending. It could have been that you got the job you interviewed for. Or it could be that you learned that someone you love loved you back.
This type of good news brings something new and exciting into our lives. It reminds us that life is good and gives us hope for the future. It lifts our spirits and gives new purpose to our days. We all need good news like that from time to time and welcome it whenever it comes.
Today’s readings are all about good news, the kind of good news that can change our lives.
The prophet Isaiah, whom we will hear throughout this Advent season, spoke God’s word during a very difficult period in the history of God’s people. Israel had been invaded, Jerusalem had been destroyed and most of the people were carted off into exile. Far from home and feeling abandoned by their God, they began to despair. But God sent prophets to the people to remind them that He was still in their midst and to urge them to be faithful to the covenant promises they had made to Him.
At their lowest point, Isaiah appears among them bringing good news. He comforts them with the word of God letting them know that their exile is coming to an end. They had endured a time of testing and punishment but now a time of blessing was coming. He reminds them that God is their Shepherd and that He has been leading them not only through the good times but also through the bad times. Though they feel abandoned by God, He had never left them and, in fact, was carrying them through the time of trial as a shepherd picks up and carries a wounded lamb. They could be assured that no matter how rocky the road, God was leading them to a place of rest and peace. Like a Good Shepherd, He would gather all of them and lead them home.
Many of us are here today waiting and praying for good news. Life can be very difficult. We can feel lost and alone. We can even feel as though God has abandoned us or let us down. Maybe things have gotten so bad for us that we have nowhere else to turn than to our Heavenly Father. There is good news for us even in the midst of our trials and tribulations. No matter what we may be experiencing, God is with us. There is nothing that can drive God away from us or cause Him to abandon us. Even when we are suffering because of our bad choices, He never abandons us. Most likely, when God feels distant, we cannot see Him because He has hoisted us up on His shoulders to carry us through the rough patch of road. The good news is that God is always by our side.
The good news is also that the God who is always at our side is also ahead of us leading the way. Like a Good Shepherd, God is leading us to green pastures where we can rest and be fed to our heart’s content. He goes ahead of us clearing away all the obstacles and chasing away all the wolves who threaten to harm us. And if we should get distracted and jump off the road, God will go into the thickets to find us and bring us back. God has a plan for our lives. There is a purpose for every path He leads us through. He can make good come out of whatever may happen to us along the way. Many times, we cannot see it until we have gone through it. But in faith we can walk forward with courage and confidence knowing that he cannot steer us wrong.
For our part, we need to trust God. Every morning, we need to entrust our lives into His loving hands and say, “Thy will be done.” Whatever problem we are faced with, we need to say with confidence, “Lord, I trust in you.” It means taking one day at a time, dealing with what is directly in front of us and letting God take care of tomorrow. As Saint Peter tells us in the second reading, “in the Lord’s eyes, one day is as a thousand years.” Today is the day of decision, the day that God has prepared for us. Living this day well will make tomorrow that much better.
We heard proclaimed today the beginning of the Gospel according to Mark. He tells us that it is the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The good news, the news that has changed the lives of untold people throughout the centuries, is that God sent His only Son to die for our sins. He rose from the dead and is still among us. Our Heavenly Father has created each of us for a special purpose and He will lead us to fulfill that purpose if we can leave sin behind and entrust ourselves to Him with childlike confidence.
That is what we are called to do in these weeks leading up to the celebration of our Savior’s birth. We remember that He was born of the Virgin Mary. We proclaim that He will come again to create a new heavens and a new earth where God’s justice will prevail. And we celebrate His presence among us now in the people He has gathered, in the word that is proclaimed and in the bread and wine that will become His Body and Blood. It is the good news that changes our lives forever, the good news our hearts are longing to hear. Our God is with us forever.