09 Dec – Second Sunday of Advent
Our Baptism With The Holy Spirit And Fire
May the Lord who gave us this baptism purify us in our celebration today; for he can brook nothing that lacks integrity and truth. Then, through the Spirit of our baptism, united in heart and voice, we will be able to give glory to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
– The Sunday Missal
The Extraordinary Missioner
The Time Magazine of April 20, 1998 reported an interesting story of a “peacemaker in denim”. A young man, Bill Tomes, was a counsellor by profession. In 1983, Bill received two exceptional job offers. In order to make the right choice, he decided to stop by a church and pray things through. When he knelt down, “all the colours turned fuzzy except the face of Christ on a painting near the altar”, recalls Bill. Then he heard a voice: “Love. You are forbidden to do anything other than that.”
Bill immediately began a new life and a new mission. He became a lay youth minister for a parish in Chicago and worked with street gangs in the area. For the past 16 years, Brother Bill, as he is known, has tried to be faithful to Christ’s words to him. He has earned the trust of rival gang leaders. He convinces trigger-itching assailants to put away their weapons and go home to their families. More than once he has walked right into the gunfire and diffused a gang war or planned killing.
“People think I’m a fool,” confesses Brother Bill, “but I love these guys – all of them. I know that many of them have done bad things, even killed people. But no matter what, I won’t turn my back on them. I’m an ordinary man on an extraordinary mission.”
– What thoughts, feelings, occurred to you while you went through the story?
– What do you think is the ‘moral’ of the story?
– taken from “Persons Are Gifts”, by Hedwig Lewis, SJ
A shoot springs from the stock of Jesse,
a scion thrusts from his roots:
on him the spirit of the Lord rests,
a spirit of wisdom and insight,
a spirit of counsel and power,
a spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
(The fear of the Lord is his breath.)
He does not judge by appearances,
he gives no verdict on hearsay,
but judges the wretched with integrity,
and with equity gives a verdict for the poor of the land.
His word is a rod that strikes the ruthless;
his sentences bring death to the wicked.
Integrity is the loincloth round his waist,
faithfulness the belt about his hips.
The wolf lives with the lamb,
the panther lies down with the kid,
calf and lion cub feed together
with a little boy to lead them.
The cow and the bear make friends,
their young lie down together.
The lion eats straw like the ox.
The infant plays over the cobra’s hole;
into the viper’s lair
the young child puts his hand.
They do no hurt, no harm,
on all my holy mountain,
for the country is filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters swell the sea.
That day, the root of Jesse
shall stand as a signal to the peoples.
It will be sought out by the nations
and its home will be glorious.
Everything that was written long ago in the scriptures was meant to teach us something about hope from the examples scripture gives of how people who did not give up were helped by God. And may he who helps us when we refuse to give up, help you all to be tolerant with each other, following the example of Christ Jesus, so that united in mind and voice you may give glory to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It can only be to God’s glory, then, for you to treat each other in the same friendly way as Christ treated you. The reason Christ became the servant of circumcised Jews was not only so that God could faithfully carry out the promises made to the patriarchs, it was also to get the pagans to give glory to God for his mercy, as scripture says in one place: For I shall praise you among the pagans and sing your name.
In due course John the Baptist appeared; he preached in the wilderness of Judaea and this was his message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.” This was the man the prophet Isaiah spoke of when he said:
A voice cries in the wilderness:
Prepare a way for the Lord,
make his paths straight.
This man John wore a garment made of camel-hair with a leather belt round his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judaea and the whole Jordan district made their way to him, and as they were baptised by him in the river Jordan they confessed their sins. But when he saw a number of Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism he said to them, “Brood of vipers, who warned you to fly from the retribution that is coming? But if you are repentant, produce the appropriate fruit, and do not presume to tell yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’, because, I tell you, god can raise children for Abraham from these stones. Even now the axe is laid to the roots of the trees, so that any tree which fails to produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown on the fire. I baptise you with water for repentance, but the one who follows me is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to carry his sandals; he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fan is in his hand; he will clear his threshing-floor and gather his wheat into the barn; but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out.”
We always think that when the kingdom of heaven comes, there will be peace automatically. But what exactly is required for this peace to reign in our hearts, among our people, and in our land? Let us take a look at what the first reading says.
“The lion eats straw like the ox”, let’s just take this one line and see what it is really saying, for its meaning applies to the wolf and the lamb, panther and the kid, the calf and the lion, the cow and the bear. We know that lions eat meat, but in this kingdom of peace, the lion eats straw like the ox. Is it easy for a lion to eat straw? Why must the lion eat straw? Why can’t the ox eat meat like the lion?
There are two things about peace that today’s first reading is telling us. The first thing is that in order for peace to reign, sacrifices must be made. People have to give way to one another, as St. Paul says to the Romans in the second reading: “treat each other in the same friendly way that Christ treated you” and “be tolerant with each other”.
The second thing that this reading tells us is that it is the strong that must give way to the weak, the mighty that must make way for the inferior, the right that must make the first move. All couples with a peaceful and loving marriage know this secret to peaceful living: We must be willing to apologise to the other even when we are in the right, to ask for forgiveness and accept that we are being forgiven even if we are in the right. This is the only way for peace to exist in a marriage and, in fact, any human relationship. The people with power must give way to those with less power.
The ultimate example has been shown to us by Jesus, the Prince of Peace. So as to let the kingdom of heaven reign on earth, Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us – he laid down his life for us. He could have easily used his divine power to swat away his enemies like flies, to crush his enemies like ants, but he chose not to. Rather, he chose to give way to those who sought to harm him. Why?
Because Jesus saw the bigger picture. Many times we quarrel with our loved ones, our friends, over something very small. Often, it helps to take a step back and look at the situation from the bigger picture. Ask yourself: Is this loss of peace really worth it? Is it my pride that prevents me from backing down and apologising to the other person? Do I really have to be right and risk harming our relationship?
Often, the most bitter of quarrels can easily be resolved if one side is willing to give way. Pride causes most of the arguments and unrest between loved ones, between friends, between communities, and even between countries. The elimination of pride in our lives can bring about much peace in the family, in our community, in our country, and in the world.
Work today for the coming of God’s kingdom of peace by being the one to make sacrifices, by being tolerant of each other, and by treating each other in the same friendly way that Christ treated you.
Dear Jesus, we ask you to eliminate pride from our lives, so that we might be able to work towards bringing your kingdom of peace where we are. Amen.
Give Thanks to the Lord for: Paying the ultimate price for peace in the world.
Mon, 10 Dec – Isaiah 35:1-10; Luke 5:17-26
Tue, 11 Dec – Isaiah 40:1-11; Matthew 18:12-14; Memorial for St. Damasus I, pope
Wed, 12 Dec – Isaiah 40:25-31; Matthew 11:28-30; Memorial for Our Lady of Guadalupe
Thu, 13 Dec – Isaiah 41:13-20; Matthew 11:11-15; Memorial for St. Lucy, virgin, martyr
Fri, 14 Dec – Isaiah 48:17-19; Matthew 11:16-19; Memorial for St. John of the Cross, presbyter, doctor
Sat, 15 Dec – Sirach 48:17-19; Matthew 17:10-13
Sun, 16 Dec – Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-11; Third Sunday of Advent
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