Freedom from Edom
The prophet Isaiah prophesies in today’s first reading that “The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom.” The places referred to here are not generic but actually refer to the region south of the Dead Sea on Israel’s southeastern border. This region was the land of Israel’s great rival, the land of Edom. The kingdom’s of Judah and Edom were constantly waring back and forth and taking over the other’s land. Edom was a real thorn in the side of Judah and there was never peace with them but always stress and tension.
It is to this dry and battle-plagued region that Isaiah addresses words of comfort. “Fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication.” God is coming to smite Edom and bring peace to his people in Judah. Notice that God’s people do not save themselves. They need their vindicator. The words of Isaiah are also meant to bring comfort to us today.
What are the stresses in our life that are constantly tugging at our borders like Edom? No doubt there are many external pressures. Yet, the greatest force that makes war on us and robs us of our peace is our own sinfulness. How often we become discouraged by our sins and weighed down with guilt. The devil leads us into sin and then is there constantly beating us up over our failures. God says to us “Fear not!” He comes to be our vindicator and wants to bring peace to our borders.
Notice however that, like Israel, we cannot save ourselves. Our vindicator comes to us through the Sacrament of Pennance to bring us his peace and healing. The other problem Edom created for Israel was that they cut off the pilgrimage routes to Jerusalem so that people could not worship God in freedom. Sin does the same thing to us. It prevents us from worshiping God with a clean heart in freedom.
This Advent, let’s get to confession. Let’s allow God to defeat the Edom in our life and open the way home to full participation in the sacramental life of the Church. If we do this, we will indeed have great cause to sing Gaudete, Rejoice! Our God comes to save us and bring us his peace.