Wednesday, December 4, 2013

2nd Sunday of Advent 2013

Most of the time our readings for a particular week give us a fairly clear message that threads itself through our Sunday readings, but looking at our readings this week, I find very challenging to find that common thread or theme.

The Word for the 2nd Sunday of Advent
        Isaiah 11:1-10
        Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17
        Romans 15:4-9
        Mathew 3:1-12

We open with a reading from the prophet Isaiah.  Here he describes for us a vision of the ideal king… the one who will “fear the Lord” and be a just judge.  His words will be his only weapons and his reign will bring universal peace.  It will be so glorious that all nations will seek it out.  To our Christian ears, it sounds as if he is describing Jesus himself.  While this would not  be incorrect, neither would it be completely correct.  First we need to consider where Isaiah is coming from… The previous chapters just before this verse are a long and scathing oracle against the kingdoms of Israel and Judah.  Kingdoms that have turned their back on God.  Isaiah is prophesying that from the root of Jesse (the line of King David) there will rise a new king who will love the Lord, and this is how he will be… the “ideal” king.  So while it is unlikely that Isaiah had Jesus specifically in mind when he made the prophecy, neither is it a coincidence that it is just this kind of king Jesus turned out to be.  It’s a real “chicken and egg” scenario.

So while our 1st reading gives us a glorious vision of what is to come through the love of God, our Gospel gives us dire predictions and warnings is we turn away from God.  This Sunday we get Matthew’s introduction of John the Baptist.  Using another of Isaiah’s prophecies about the announcement of the deliverer, Matthew gives us a good description of John, not only about what he looks like, but how he feels about the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the perceived hypocrisy employed by those charged with following and teaching God’s law.  John mission and baptism is a call for repentance.

Meanwhile, our 2nd reading from the letter to the Romans, Paul reminds us of the important of the Scriptures, and how provide endurance and encouragement.  Further, Paul explains that while the Hebrew scriptures are meant to give us hope, we also need to welcome everyone as Christ welcomed them… meaning that, just as Isaiah’s vision showed this new King to be a beacon for all nations, that the Gentiles are aosl to be welcomed so they might give glory God.

So what is our common thread in these readings?  The Foundations in Faith text we use for RCIA suggests the theme as “Justice and Peace as Signs of the Messianic Era.”  What does that mean?  Clearly that can be seen more directly from the first reading than the Gospel, but there is a connection in that those who are genuine in their repentance… that is those who strive for peace as pictured in the first and second reading, can indeed bring Isaiah’s vision to life… the vision of the Kingdom of God. 

Catholic Update:
Advent Day by Day:  Opening Doors to Joy
‘Light of Faith’:  Key Themes from Pope Francis’ First Encyclical

Hopefully you all had a joyful and relaxing Thanksgiving Holiday, and avoided the commercial mayhem that seems to have overtaken our culture.  I think our Holy Father's most recent comments about capitalism bears some careful consideration...  As Advent is a time of reflection, don't just rely on what the media has said, take the time to read it for yourselves and decide:  Apostolic Exhortation:  Evangelii Gaudium

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