Saturday in the First Week of Advent at Mississippi Abbey

Scripture Readings: Is 30:19-21, 23-26; Mt 9:35-10:1, 5a, 6-8

Thomas Merton has written that, “The problem with the Good News is that it’s not news anymore.” Why not? Today’s readings give us much to consider in this regard.

In Isaiah the people “weep” and “cry out” for help. This echoes the Israelites crying out for relief from bondage in Egypt. In the gospel the people are “troubled and abandoned like sheep without a shepherd.” In short, they are in excellent spiritual condition! They are in readiness to hear good news…and know that it’s news!

The Good News is not news when we think we already know the story of life and the ways to manage it.

Jesus is going about the towns and villages proclaiming the good news that the kingdom is at hand. And He proves it by “curing every disease and illness.” And how do we access this kingdom; how do we receive this as “news”? Jesus tells us elsewhere that we must receive this like children.

Children cry out for help because first they believe in the goodness of the caretaker, and secondly because they are experiencing their peril apart from the caretaker. They know their dependence.

The “crying out” for the same reasons is pre-requisite for our readiness to hear and understand the good news as news.What we cry out for is freedom from the bondage of self. The good news is the commandments to love God and neighbor. As St. Paul tells us, “Love one another with mutual affection; extend hospitality to strangers; love those who persecute you; rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep; do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble; do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12: 9ff).What is described here is a communal love. Our root problem is self-centeredness. When we are convinced of our inability to get over it we will be ready to hear the good news and it will indeed be news. And today we’re told the news is this: “This is the way; walk in it.”