One can almost hear the tambourines shaking with joy and the horns sounding in triumph to lead the procession of captives back to Israel from Babylon. Isaiah evokes such a marvelous picture of what life will be like when the Messiah comes to save His people. Concrete examples of joy abound: “Strengthen the hands that are feeble; make firm the knees that are weak.” Those of us of a certain age can identify with what this would mean! “Say to those whose hearts are frightened: be strong, fear not!” Wonderful words and a great desire! “Here is your God; He comes with vindication; with divine recompense He comes to save you.”

The prophecy rolls on promising sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, mobility to the lame in a land of fertility with animals tame and friendly. What a terrific scene of people moving toward freedom in a great march back to their homeland; a people full of hope and joy; a people letting go of the past to embrace the great possibilities of the future provided by a loving and compassionate God who desires to extend His mercy to all of them.

What about my own journey through Advent? Have we experienced the freedom which God wants for us as we move toward Christmas? Is there a joyous song in my heart today? Do I look forward to a better tomorrow because God has intervened in my life? So much depends on whether I invite God into my life, whether I prepare myself for His saving love. The challenge for me amidst the many demands before Christmas is whether I can allow myself to approach “…a highway [which] will be there, called the holy way.” Do I really believe God calls me to this holy way, the way I live my life amidst the many demands of work and family living? Do I really believe in God’s love for me as the people returning to Israel felt that love?

Mary, mother of Jesus and our mother, is a wonderful companion along this “highway”…this “holy way.” Ask her this feast day to walk with you and your family towards the hope of Christmas.

—Fr. John Libens, S.J. is superior of the 69 retired Jesuits living at Colombiere Center, Clarkston, Michigan. This Jesuit Community prays each day for the special intentions of those making prayer requests to