- Isaiah 11:1-10
- Romans 15:4-9
- Matthew 3:1-12
In the readings of this second Sunday of Advent, we dance back and forth between the message of the Prophet Isaiah and the message of the Prophet John the Baptist in the Gospel of St. Matthew.
The Prophet Isaiah is bringing hope to a traumatized, distressed and despairing people who have been ravaged by war and injustice. Everything they treasured as God’s chosen people has been taken from them. Into this broken world, the Prophet Isaiah is sent by God to assure them that the Messiah will come. In contrast to the constant battles of war, we now have Isaiah describe a rule by Jesse’s son based on a rule of justice.
“A shoot shall sprout from stump of Jesse, and from His roots a bud shall blossom. The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him. He shall judge the poor with justice and decide aright for the land’s afflicted” (Isaiah 11:1,3).
The Spirit of the Lord here indicates the action of God upon the world! All the gifts of the Spirit and justice and peace will be at work in his Kingdom.
As we look at the way of the Lord in the Gospel of Matthew, we see a world in utter confusion and turmoil very similar to what we are experiencing in 2022.
- We have the war in Ukraine
- Inflation and high prices are having a traumatic effect upon families.
- We have climate change issues
- The United States Congress is in gridlock and unable to compromise etc.
We note that the Evangelist Matthew begins the Gospel by recalling the story of one of Advent’s most intriguing Prophets, John the Baptist.
“John the Baptist appeared preaching in the desert of Judea saying, ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand!’ It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said: ‘A voice of one crying out in the desert, Prepare the way of Lord, make straight his paths’ ” (Matthew 2:1-3).
Just as John the Baptist, living in the desert, was preparing the way for the Messiah, so we in our desert experiences are preparing the way for new beginnings in our own lives during this Advent season.
The reading of St. Paul to the Romans gives us further instructions.
“By endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another, in keeping with Christ Jesus, that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans, 15: 5-6).
Advent provided this time for inner transformation. We allow the Master Artist once again to help us center our lives, to move to a new depth of understanding of the awesome Mystery that is unfolding before us. We await new discoveries as we ponder, like Mary, the Word of God deep within our hearts.
A desire for stillness and solitude can facilitate the work of transformation. T.S. Eliot captures the impact of stillness when he writes in the second poem (East Coker) of his book Four Quartets:
We ought to be explorers / Here or there does not matter / We must be still and still moving / Into another intensity / For a further union, a deeper communion.
To be prepared for this second coming we need to live an awakened life in the present. Brother Lawrence in his text, The Practice of the Presence of God, writes, “The holiest, most ordinary, and most necessary practice of the spiritual life is that of the presence of God. It is to take delight in and become accustomed to God’s divine company, speaking humbly and conversing lovingly with God at all times, at every moment without rule or measure, especially in times of temptation, suffering, aridity, weariness, even infidelity and sin.” God is always there for us, beckoning us to respond. However, God expects us to be involved in the adventure. We need to make an effort. As our longings and expectations help us to get in touch with the deeper Mysteries of our lives, we move beyond Bethlehem to engage our broken world in justice, peace and love, thus preparing for a ‘new heaven and a new earth.’
Joseph Naasl sums up this Advent adventure with these marvelous words. “We are all pregnant with the presence of God.” I was struck by the impact of these words.
We are all pregnant with the presence of God.
What an inspiring, grace fill adventure our Advent would be, if we daily continued to nurture this presence of God growing within us!