"I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open." Isaiah spoke these words (22:22) some time around 700 BC, long before Jesus was to be born. Yet Isaiah saw a distant future, a different time.
"O Key of David" brings us to the fourth of the O Antiphons. Jesus came to open prison doors and set the captives free. He came to open the gates of Heaven and to close the gates of Hell. The key to each is on his shoulders as the kingdom is on his shoulders, as the beam of the cross is on his shoulders, as life and death, judgment and justice are on his shoulders. He not only carries the key, he uses the key, he is the key.
For Reflection: What things that have been locked away need to be opened? Who in my life do I need to set free?
Let us pray. O Wisdom, O Lord, O Flower of Jesse, O Key of David, you are the key to healing, to freedom, to wholeness. Open my mind to your wisdom. Let it take root and flower in me that I might follow in your footsteps by opening doors and setting captives free.
"Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you" (Isaiah 35:4). So often we read these words as part of a section describing the Kingdom and we don't necessarily concentrate on the meaning of "vindication" and "recompense."
If we are vindicated for a crime, we are found not guilty. We are innocent. God sent his son Jesus to die for us that we might be declared not guilty, justified, innocent. As those who believe in Jesus and who appropriate for ourselves what he accomplished, we are vindicated, not guilty. The divine recompense was the death and resurrection of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins. The debt owed because of our sins has been paid. There is no mortgage on our lives.
That's not to say that we don't need to be sorry for our sins against God and others. Repentance is still necessary. But what we owed God, the amount due, was paid in advance. Jesus "picked up the check."
For reflection: Have I been thankful for this great gift of vindication? Is there someone in my life who needs to hear "not guilty" from me?
Let us pray. I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is your love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and let your glory be over all the earth" (Psalm 108:3-5).
"Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you" (Isaiah 35:3-4; cf. Hebrews 12:12).
As we look back and forth between the Old Testament and the New Testament at these descriptions of the Kingdom of God we see that there is really no difference between them. Isaiah and the other visionary prophets got it right. Jesus and his disciples proclaim the same coming Kingdom. It's a kingdom where the righteous are rewarded, where all illnesses are healed, every tear wiped away. Hang in there. God is coming. There is hope.
For reflection: Where am I flagging? What about me needs to be strengthened? Where am I lacking hope?
Let us pray. Jesus, I know you hold me in your hands but the Kingdom seems a long time coming. Be with me today. Give me strength. Give me hope in exchange for my fear.
Isaiah's vision of the Kingdom of God is one of beauty, of lushness, of perfection. It is the return of the Garden of Eden, the return of a time and place before sin. It is a return to original holiness. Not just people, but all creation will give praise to the King.
"The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy" (Isaiah 35:1-2). As it says in Romans, "creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay" (Romans 8:21). All of creation will be set free from the effects of sin and death.
For reflection: What causes me to praise God today?
Let us pray. Lord God, you are King of the Universe, King of Heaven, King of Kings, King of Creation. All creation gives you praise.
This time of advent, of waiting, of expectation, of praying for the Kingdom to come is not one of passivity. No, we are actively preparing for the arrival of the Kingdom of God on earth, for the second coming of Christ for all. We do this because he wants all to be saved and none to be lost (1 Timothy 2:4).
This theme of Kingdom expectation (which has gone on much longer in this blog than I expected) can be traced throughout the Scriptures as we have seen over the last several weeks. It permeates the Old Testament. It threads its way through Jesus and his teachings and prayers. It turns up consistently in Paul's letters. This expectation, this hope, leads us not to sit back and watch, but to go forth and do.
All will not be saved if each of us does not do our part. Some are preachers; some are preparers, some are pray-ers (Ephesians 4:11-12). We each have our assignment. The Kingdom of God depends on us. God is waiting too.
For reflection: How well have I been fulfilling my assignment from God?
Let us pray. Come, Holy Spirit. Fill my heart. Set it on fire for you. Renew me. Empower me every day to do what you expect. Renew the face of the earth.
Isaiah provides us with many images of the Kingdom of God. He pictures the Lord on a mountain laying out a feast of "rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines". Here the Lord will "destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations" (Isaiah 25:6-8).
To me this is the veil of unbelief, the web of deceit that Satan, the father of lies and accuser of the brethren, weaves to keep people from entering the presence of the Lord. By his death, Jesus destroyed the veil that separated the people from the Holy of Holies so that all people could enter in (Luke 23:45; Hebrews 10:19-22). The presence of the Lord is not reserved for the "worthy few" because all have been made worthy by the blood of Jesus.
For reflection: How can I make more time to enjoy the feast, to drink the wine of his presence?
Let us pray. Today I enter into your presence, Lord. I drink you in.
As Advent begins we continue to be immersed in images of the Kingdom of God on earth which mirrors the Kingdom of God in heaven. In Isaiah's vision of the last days (2:1-5), all nations come to the Lord's house for instruction. The Lord himself sits as judge between peoples. His objective is peace and life. "They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again".
Let us pray. Lord, I need your instruction in the ways of peace and life. So many things compete for my attention. Disorder and chaos surround me. Help me in the midst of the chaos to tune in to your thoughts. As I find my peace in you, allow me to spread that peace to others. I want to be an overcomer of chaos.
Monday we spoke of the diplomatic mission of Kingdom ambassadors. The message of that mission is reconciliation with God, with ourselves and with others. For whatever reason, Christians have not yet completed that mission.
We are not alone in this mission, as no ambassador is alone. We have the full faith and credit of the Kingdom of God behind us. We have Jesus behind us. He promised, "I am with you always" (Matthew 28:20). We have the Holy Spirit behind us. "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever -- the Spirit of truth" (John 14:16).
For reflection: Many people will be gathering with family this week. It is often our families with whom we most need to be reconciled. Can we humble ourselves and be the first to say, "I'm sorry. Will you forgive me?"
Let us pray. Jesus, there are people in my family whom I have hurt. Please open the door and help me to say, "I'm sorry. Will you forgive me?"
Kingdom ambassadors have a message from Christ to give to all the representatives and the governments of the world: reconciliation. An ambassador is never sent by the head of her government to the head of another government without a message. That message is reconciliation. Christ has reconciled us to himself (not even counting our sins against us). And now we, as his ambassadors, are called on to take that message to others. Christ makes his appeal through us. We are his spokesmen. We are the people he trusts with his message - be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
What better message is there than to be able to tell people that God loves them so much that all he wants is to be in a good relationship with them. He won't even count their sins against them. Just come, be forgiven, be reconciled. It is not the model of any worldly king. A human king wants you to prove yourself worthy of forgiveness, prove your loyalty, prove yourself ready to die for king and kingdom. In the heavenly kingdom it is the other way around. The king died for us that we might be made worthy. The king died for us to prove his loyalty. The king died for us that we might be forgiven. He wants us to sit in the heavenly places with him.
For reflecti0n: Christ says to us, "Come up. Come up out of the muck and the mire. Come, be reconciled. I have so much more for you. Won't you join me?"
Let us pray. My King and my God. (As we watch the video of women joyfully dancing to "King of Kings and Lord of Lords", let us consider with whom we can share the good news of reconciliation this week.)
In the Kingdom of God on earth, we are all citizens of the same Kingdom. We all believe in and work for the same King. We all have the same purpose. We live for him.
Until the fulfillment of that comes, Christians serve as ambassadors for the Kingdom of God. As with other ambassadors, wherever we are in residence, is the land of the Kingdom. When someone enters our home, they are entering the Kingdom. Wherever we go, we represent the King. In a real sense, the King and the Kingdom go with us. When we walk in a room, the King walks in the room because we are his designated representative. As St. Paul says, "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us" (2 Corinthians 5:20). Ambassadors have the full faith of the King behind them.
For reflection: Do I carry the presence of the King and the Kingdom with me?
Let us pray. King of all creation, I bow before you. I acknowledge your kingship. You only want the best for your creation. With the saints and angels in heaven, I praise you. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.