The responsorial psalm that is set for tomorrow (though it may be replaced by one of the seasonal psalms – see p 950 of Lectionary I) speaks of freedom from bondage.
What marvels the Lord worked for us! Indeed we were glad.
When the Lord delivered Zion from bondage,
it seemed like a dream.
Then was our mouth filled with laughter,
on our lips there were songs.
The heathens themselves said: ‘What marvels
the Lord worked for them!’
What marvels the Lord worked for us!
Indeed we were glad.
Deliver us, O Lord, from our bondage
as streams in dry land.
Those who are sowing in tears
will sing when they reap.
They go out, they go out, full of tears,
carrying seed for the sowing:
they come back, they come back, full of song,
carrying their sheaves.
Israel was enslaved at various stages in her history – in Egypt before she was fully a people, in Babylon, enduring persecution in years since. Israel serves as a type (and anticipation) of all people everywhere. Again and again we know oppression – and again and again we may be source of oppression for others.
The Lord offers us freedom and urges us to offer to be agents of freedom for others. The challenges to both of these things are of course enormous. Our own faults and the attitudes and actions of others militate against the promptings of grace.
Yet the psalm reminds of the goodness of freedom, and the joy. Advent encourages us to hope and try, despite everything.
Slaves by Michelangelo. Louvre, Paris. (c) 2011, Allen Morris