I was standing in the cathedral undercroft near where one of my heroes was buried–El Salvador’s Archbishop Oscar Romero. People had gathered there for a Sunday Mass during Advent. The lector began the first reading.

“Consuela a mi pueblo,” she proclaimed. Comfort my people. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. In the sermon, the presider put it more bluntly: “Things don’t have to be the way they are.”

I was moved to hear Isaiah’s message proclaimed near Archbishop Romero’s tomb. Romero had died for the truth of this message. “I beg you, I implore you, in God’s name, I order you,” he cried out during El Salvador’s brutal civil war, “stop the repression!” A soldier gunned him down while he offered Mass.

Jerusalem was suffering from invasions and oppression when the message in Isaiah was written. So many cities still struggle today. The civil war is over, but gang violence and poverty continue to plague San Salvador. In many U.S. cities (including my own), people have been demonstrating for racial justice. War ravages Syria and Iraq. Things don’t have to be the way they are. Comfort my people. Speak tenderly. Prepare the way.

What one thing might you do in your part of the world to help bring about the reign of God?

—Mary Anne Reese is a lawyer, poet, and member of Bellarmine Chapel, a Jesuit parish in Cincinnati, Ohio.