Second Sunday of Advent, Year A Dec. 4, 2016.
Advent is a time of preparation in anticipation of the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ. When we read the readings in advent, they don’t seem to look forward to a tiny baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. They seem to speak of the coming of a King, a Judge, of a kingdom that will have no end. What do the readings say to us today? For Scripture is a living word, speaking to our desires, problems and wishes and wants as much as it spoke to those same desires to the peoples it was originally written to.
Isaiah preaches to the people of Judah and gives them hope, that message gives us hope today also. The tree of Jesse, the father of King David, had been cut down, meaning that the monarchy had been conquered. This was a truth that Judah knew too well, yet from that stump a shoot would sprout. This is not a new plant, because the roots are that of Jesse, but it is a renewing of the kingdom promise by god to his people. There are 7 gifts attributed to the messianic king: The Spirit of Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety and Fear of the Lord. These 7 gifts are also given to us at Confirmation. We may not use these in the same way as a monarch would, but they are indispensable to living a life that is pleasing to God. And indeed, they help us in our daily journey towards God.
So Isaiah shows us the Messianic King and what his kingdom will eventually look like, “In that Day”. It will be a kingdom of unsurpassable peace in the world. Even in the animal world, there will be peace among all. The image of the messianic king has been fulfilled in Jesus, but it is offered to us to use as a model after which we pattern our lives.
Paul calls us all to live in harmony with one another, because there is no more division in the body of Christ, there is no more Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, but all one body, one voice of Christ to the glory of God the Father. The invitation is given to us, we are expected to extend that invitation to others and to minister to them in their needs, whatever those needs may be. We need to see Jesus in others, because when we see Jesus in others, we treat them in the manner we would, or should treat Jesus. How do we prepare for the coming of our Lord? Do we do works that produce good fruit, like John the Baptist told the Pharisees and Sadducees to do in order to repent? Do we live a life free from presumption?, in other words, we don’t think that just because we have the name “Catholic”, that we have it made and can get in the kingdom just by wearing a title. The Pharisees thought that because they were children of Abraham, and that was enough. Many today think the same way; I am a good person, I haven’t killed anybody, I haven’t cheated on my spouse, etc… Yet, we have the attitude that being a Catholic is enough. It is not. We are called to a deeper understanding of our lives, we are called to a deeper conversion of heart and mind, called to a deeper service to others. Don’t get me wrong. This community of St. Frances of Rome does some incredible work in the communities of Lake Elsinore and Wildomar; from the daily soup kitchen and food pantry, to the Elsinore Valley Pregnancy Center where they help young women to choose life and give them direction and assistance beyond the birth of their child, to the ministries of visiting the sick and elderly in the hospitals and homes. In these, and in many other ministries, we show our love for our neighbor and for God. But we sometimes become complacent in our walk, so I urge you to reflect this Advent on your life, as I will reflect on mine too. How can I serve God in a new, different and better way through my life? I would like to share a story that was shared by a priest in Africa on this same Liturgical Sunday a few years ago.
Many years ago, there lived a great and holy teacher called Rabbi Saadiah. He had hundreds of pupils, and all of them had a great thirst to learn. One winter morning, two of his pupils who happened to be walking in the mountains, while approaching its summit, saw to their great surprise, their master sitting on the snow covered ground, weeping, praying and engaging in other acts of penitence. This beat their imagination and they wondered: “What could such a perfectly righteous person as their teacher possibly need to repent of? Could he have committed some sins, God forbid? They hurriedly departed from that place. Later that day, they asked their teacher what the scene they witnessed was all about. “I do that every day,” he said to them. “Every day I repent and plead with God to forgive my shortcomings and failings in my service of Him.” “Of what failings do you speak?” They asked him. Then the Rabbi told them this story: “One day an old inn keeper received and served me so well without realizing who I was. When I left the next morning someone told him: ‘That was Rabbi Saadiah.’ Immediately, he came after and in search of me. When he caught up with me, he jumped from his carriage and fell at my feet, weeping: ‘Please forgive me! Please forgive me!! I did not know that it was you!’ I made him stand up, and then said to him: But my dear friend, you treated me very well, you were very kind and hospitable. Why are you so sorry? You have nothing to apologize for. ‘No, no, Rabbi,’ he replied. ‘If I had known you were the one, I would have served you in a completely different manner!’ Suddenly I realized that this man was teaching me a very important lesson in the service of God. I thanked and blessed him, and returned home.” “Since then” the Rabbi concluded, “every evening when I say the prayer before sleeping, I go over in my mind how I served God that day. Then I think of that old innkeeper, and say to myself, Oh! If I had known about God in the beginning of the day the way I know him now, I would have served Him in a completely different manner! And that is what I was repenting for this morning.” This is what we must do every day this season of Advent and beyond. Nothing must be taken for granted if we must be ready to welcome Jesus when he comes.