Step #1: Lectio / Read
Click the link below or open your Bible to the passage and read through the reading at least once, paying attention to what is happening in the text.
Step #2: Meditatio / Meditate
Use the following meditation to help you reflect more deeply on the Scripture (you may want to read the passage again).
“Fear not to cry out and say to the cities of Judah: Here is your God! Here comes with power the Lord God, who rules by his strong arm…Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs.”
This verse from today’s first reading from Isaiah encapsulates the joy and hope that comes during this season of Advent. The great prophecy of God coming to his people to not only rule with his strong arm to lead his people, but also a God that comes to carry his people in his bosom. God is coming to lead us to his Kingdom but he is also coming to love us tenderly as his flock.
It’s an interesting duality to consider, and one that man has been questioning forever: how can God be so strong and decisive in the way he rules the world and his peoples, but yet so tender and compassionate to love us with a personal love? You may recall questions such as, “how could the vengeful God of the Old Testament be the same loving God of the New Testament?” I think if we step back for a second we’ll see how God is both strong ruler and tender loving shepherd.
The people of Israel that Isaiah is speaking to are in a deep place of despair- they’ve been ripped from their homeland, living as slaves in exile in Babylon. All of the great promises of God in the Old Testament seem like distant memories to them at this point. The Messiah that they are waiting for is a God who can rule with an iron fist to lead them out of this exile and back to the promised land of their fathers. They weren’t looking for a God to be tender and compassionate to them, but rather a firm ruler to take over the nation who controlled them. However, this is always the starting place for God to show us who he really is.
We see an incompatibility between a firm ruling hand and a tender loving hand. Why is this? Is it because we only see firm rule as prohibitive, such as a child who rebels against their parents rules? Yet none of us fails to know the tender love of our parents as we come to mature. God is a loving Father, and just as we sometimes need to know the tender love of our parents, we also need them to lead us with a firm and guiding hand.
Isaiah proclaims a God who is coming to not only lead us to the glory of his Kingdom, but a God who will love us tenderly as he leads us to that freedom. Advent is all about waiting for the Lord to come to us — small and seemingly insignificant as a baby in a manger — but it is also about recognizing the power of the Lord who will lead us to his Kingdom. It is in this that we find joy and hope as we wait for the coming of our great God, our tender Shepherd.
Step #3: Oratio / Pray
These questions are to be used to talk to God; have a conversation with the Lord about these questions and what is going on in your heart as you pray today.
How do I see God as a firm, prohibitive, ruler?
How do I see God as a loving shepherd to me?
In what ways is my relationship with God struggling to grow because of how I see him?
Step #4: Contemplatio / Contemplate
In this step, you listen. Stop talking, let God speak to your heart. You may repeat one of these short phrases to focus your mind on the Lord.
"We wait for you."
"Show me your love."
"Lead me to your Kingdom, Lord."
Step #5: Actio / Act
In light of today's reading and your time spent in prayer with the Lord, what concrete action or actions will you take to let this encounter with the Lord bear fruit in you today?
Take time today to look at your view of God. Make a two-column list and put "firm ruler" at one side and "loving shepherd" at the other. Then write down how you see God working in your life with specific examples in each column. Take stock of where you are lacking in seeing God as both/and, and ask God to bring you to a greater knowledge of who he is to you.
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"Today's prayer was prepared by Adam Smyth, the Life Teen Coordinator at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in the Woodlands, TX.
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