First Reading (Opt. C): Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
Announcement: Freedom and Return!
1 "Comfort, comfort my people," says your God. 2 "Speak comfortably to Jerusalem; and call out to her that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received of YHWH's hand double for all her sins."
3 The voice of one who calls out,
"Prepare the way of YHWH in the wilderness! Make a level highway in the desert for our God. 4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The uneven shall be made level and the rough places a plain.
5 The glory of YHWH shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of YHWH has spoken it."
40:9 You who tell good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who tell good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with strength. Lift it up. Don't be afraid. Say to the cities of Judah, "Behold, your God!" 10 Behold, the Lord YHWH will come as a mighty one, and his arm will rule for him. Behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.
11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will gather the lambs in his arm, and carry them in his bosom. He will gently lead those who have their young.
World English Bible
Imagine a general amnesty for all prisoners in the United States. While that thought might scare us, there would be joy in many quarters. Fathers would see their families. Sons would see their parents. Heroes would return to their communities. Many lost in the system would see hope in freedom. The impact of such an amnesty was felt by the Jews when they heard the words of Second Isaiah.
The beginning of Second Isaiah presented a scene of divine command and the announcement of a town crier. God pronounced a nation-wide forgiveness and the crier announced the return of the exiles. [40:1-5] The joy of such an announcement must have accompanied the fall of Babylon to Cyrus and the Persian army in 539 B.C. A year later, the Persian ruler enacted an edict of return for the Jews in the Diaspora. They were to rebuild Jerusalem and restore the Temple.
The changing events justified the loyalty of the exiles to their God. Now YHWH could display his power, even through a foreign king. The Jewish nation could once again rally around their God. They could once again show a religious and patriotic pride. YHWH saved them! [40:9-11]
Freedom from bondage implicitly means return. Pardon from sin means return to God. Metanoia, repentance, means turn away from self-centered pursuits. And turning towards the Almighty.
These are the themes of Baptism
How do you plan to turn away from the self and turn towards God?