8 December 2019 – 2nd Sunday of Advent
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 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 this I shall praise you among the pagans and sing to 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 in 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.’
He shall not judge by what his eye sees
All three readings today speak on peace. Isaiah speaks of a peace with no enemies in that even those who were enemies now live together in calmness with each other. Peter speaks of this same harmonious living. Both refer to our cleansing with water.
After these two readings, I felt a sigh of relief, of tension and stress draining from my body – praising Him for the peace that will fill us when peace reigns on this earth.
Then in today’s gospel ,Matthew introduces us to John the Baptist, and though he speaks on peace, his message is one of woe to whoever is NOT peaceful, loving, etc. John goes on to share that the one to come will cleanse with fire –- not so calming. And now I realize I must choose to love and help even my enemies, let go of my self-righteous mind, or to live outside of God’s peace.
As a Christian in a country where I am able to practice my faith publicly, it is easy for self righteousness to live in me. This can happen to me in such a way that I am not singing grateful praises of the day we will all know Christ with every knee bending, but wagging my finger at those who seem to be living a life, publicly or privately, with no regard to God, and even denying God’s existence and shouting that Jesus is a fairytale. I am judging, holding myself up with a smug attitude of being glad that ‘they’ will be punished. As I reflect on this, I know that I am judging with my eyes –- I am acting like the Pharisees and Sadducees. I excuse myself by reasoning that I am not a Pharisee, but I know that I am thinking and acting as Martha, and not Mary.
My attitude of wanting the fire to come down on the ‘bad’ isn’t on the path that Christ walked, so I am actually worse than those I wag my finger at –- I know Christ, I should be loving them, even when I hate what they do and say. I want to be praying for their salvation, for them coming to know Christ, not wagging my prideful self-righteous finger. Scripture today calls upon me to live like Isaiah and Romans describe, in a calming peaceful manner helping all those around me so that I won’t be part of the chaff burning in the unquenchable fire.
(Today’s Oxygen by Gina Ulicny)
Prayer: Father God, you are the Almighty, the all knowing, the Just God of all. Help me to let go of my judging nature and live in a manner which will show your love to all those I come into contact with every day. Use me, Father, for your will, not mine.
Thanksgiving: Thank you for judging me with love. Thank you for showering mercy on me every day. Thank you for the many graces that you bestow on me as I desire to walk with You.