Scripture Readings: Isaiah 11:1-10; Romans 15:4-9; Matthew 3:1-12
A fundamental emphasis of the Season of Advent each year is to welcome Jesus, who came in time, who will come at the end of time, and who comes to us every day: in Sacred Scripture, in the Sacraments of the Church, and in our encounters with God and one another.
The three Scripture readings for this Second Sunday of Advent center around the idea of being reconciled to God and the readings explain the conditions for that reconciliation to take place in a “graceful” manner. The word “graceful” is intentionally used here, to indicate supernatural help that comes from God, what we usually call “grace,” meant to assist us in doing good and growing the likeness of God in whose image we are created.
The words of Saint Paul to the Romans, found in the second reading for Mass this Sunday, says very plainly: “Accept one another as Christ accepted you.” In doing that, we can be reconciled, that is, in harmony and unity, with others and with God. The first reading for Mass, from the Prophet Isaiah, expresses the concept of being reconciled in beautiful imagery from nature: “The wolf shall be the guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to lead them.”
The image of the child from the prophesy of Isaiah brings to mind for Christians the coming of the Holy Child Jesus, destined to be the Redeemer of humankind. Isaiah is also expressing the belief and hope of an eventual “return to Paradise,” hearkening back to the first Paradise, where all the animals are tame, people and nature are in harmony, with the absence of all fear and suspicion. “Paradise Lost is to become “Paradise Regained.” Just as animals became wild and fierce after the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, so the redemption of the human race will restore all to the House of God and to an abundance of peace.
It is always important to remember that redemption is God’s work, not ours. Isaiah the Prophet also speaks of the day when “the Spirit of the Lord shall rest” upon us. This gift is perfectly given through the coming of the Messiah Jesus, whereby the Spirit of the Lord will be poured out upon the all people. This is called by Isaiah “the spirit of wisdom and understanding,” which makes for the possibility of doing all things correctly, according to God’s will. It is also called a “spirit of counsel and might,” giving people the strength and goodness for doing good. Finally, “a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord” will be given, in order that all may delight in knowing, loving and serving God.
We may at times or often feel that such goodness among peoples is an impossible achievement, yet with God all things are possible, Scripture tells us. Like rain that can bring forth grass and other vegetation to parched land, which we experience here in the desert each Spring and Summer, so too God’s action can do astonishingly great things! Saint Benedict tell his followers in the Holy Rule, “never to despair of God’s mercy,” and that is still true and an important message in the realm of experiencing the salvation has in store for us.
During Advent, we wait in hope for the Spirit of the Lord to rest upon us, to invigorate us and to bring about the transformation that God desires to occur, within us personally, within the Church and within the whole human race.
Advent is a call to make a decision whether we are willing to belong to the new Paradise, the new way of living, seeking reconciliation with God and neighbor. Saint Paul refers to this in his Letter to the Romans (chapter 8, verse 21) as: “The glorious freedom of the children of God.” This freedom implies redemption in the Lord for which we wait and hope in this season of Advent.
Abbot Christian Leisy, OSB
(A tip of the hat and thanks to the late Father Carroll Stuhlmueller, C.P., for the inspiration and springboard for the above reflection, provided in his “Biblical Meditations For Advent,” Paulist Press, 1978).