Second Sunday of Advent (Cycle A)

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John the Baptist Preaching - by TIEPOLO, Giovanni Battista - from Cappella Colleoni, Bergamo . . . . .

The impressive figure of John the Baptist, delivering his sermon with raised forefinger from the top of a rock in the landscape, dominates the right-hand side of the picture. His cross staff and the lamb at his feet refer to the fate of Christ. The left-hand side of the picture is almost completely taken up by men, women and children, who listen spellbound to the sermon. The young woman placed in the very centre of the picture breast-feeding her child, who thus conforms to the standardized portrayal of the Madonna and Child, can be understood as an allusion to the birth of Christ, which is the subject of John's sermon.

 

Isaiah 11:1-10; Romans 15:4-9; Matthew 3:1-12

 

Isaiah 11:1-10

He judges the poor with justice. On that day a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a Bud shall blossom. The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him: a Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A Spirit of counsel and of strength, a Spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord, and His delight shall be the fear of the Lord. Not by appearance shall He judge, nor by hearsay shall He decide, but He shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land's afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around His waist, and faithfulness a belt upon His hips.

Then the wolf shall be a 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 guide them. The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest; the lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall play by the cobra's den, and the child lay his hand on the adder's lair. There shall be no harm or ruin on all My holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord, as water covers the sea.

On that day, The root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, The Gentiles shall seek out, for His dwelling shall be glorious.

 

Romans 15:4-9

Everything written before our time was written for our instruction, that we might derive hope from the lessons of patience and the words of encouragement in the Scriptures. May God, the source of all patience and encouragement, enable you to live in perfect harmony with one another according to the Spirit of Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and voice you may glorify God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Accept one another, then, as Christ accepted you, for the glory of God. Yes, I affirm that Christ became the servant of the Jews because of God's faithfulness in fulfilling the promises to the patriarchs whereas the Gentiles glorify God because of His mercy. As Scripture has it, "Therefore I will praise You among the Gentiles and I will sing to Your name."

 

Matthew 3:1-12

When John the Baptizer made his appearance as a preacher in the desert of Judea, this was his theme: "Reform your lives! The reign of God is at hand". It was of Him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said, "A herald's voice in the desert: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths.'" John was clothed in a garment of camel's hair and wore a leather belt around his waist. Grasshoppers and wild honey were his food. At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him. They were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they confessed their sins.

When he saw that many of the Pharisees and Sadducees were stepping forward for this bath, he said to them: "You brood of vipers! Who told you to flee from the wrath to come? Give some evidence that you mean to reform. Do not pride yourselves on the claim, 'Abraham is our father.' I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these very stones. Even now the ax is laid to the root of the tree. Every tree that is not fruitful will be cut down and thrown into the fire. I baptize you in water for the sake of reform, but the One Who will follow me is more powerful than I. I am not even fit to carry His sandals. He it is Who will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fan is in His hand. He will clear His threshing floor, and gather His grain into the barn, but the chaff He will burn in unquenchable fire."

 

Second Sunday of Advent (Cycle A)

by Father Charles Irvin, M.Div, J.D.

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John the Baptist lived in the desert, didn't work, didn't own anything, ate food produced only by nature, such as grasshoppers, locusts, snails, honey and roots. John didn't drink wine, was clothed only in animal skins and leather made from animal skins. He called the religious leaders of his day a brood of snakes and went on to call down God's judgment upon the world.

John wasn't very clear about what would happen to those who converted, but he was very clear about what would happen to those who did not convert their ways of living. John's message: heavy, grim and dark. For John, God was a God of fury, anger, wrath, vindictiveness, and vengeance. God was coming soon, and, boy, was He mad!

John's message was, as we see clearly, that the world was about to end.

And Jesus confirmed that message. John was right, He declared. The Old Testament pattern was about to end; the Veil in the Temple was about to be torn in two. With John the Baptist's arrival on the scene, the Old Testament era was now closed. John's gloom and doom dirge was his chanting of the last rites; Jesus would in fact celebrate the Last Supper.

Jesus understood . . . and He wept. He went to John to be baptized. "Oh, no," said John, "not by me You won't." "Oh, yes," said Jesus, " you shall baptize Me!" And with that the Presence of the Spirit moved from John to Jesus; the office of Prophet was delivered over to Jesus -- the Old Testament was now to be reborn as the New Testament.

Later on Jesus would talk about John:

"What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the breeze? No? Then what did you go out to see? A man wearing fine clothes? Oh no, those who wear fine clothes are to be found in palaces. Then what did you go out for? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and much more than a prophet: he is the one of whom scripture says:

Look, I am going to send My messenger before You; he will prepare Your way before You.

"I tell you solemnly, of all the men born of women, a greater than John the Baptist has never been seen; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is. Since John the Baptist came, up to this present time, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence and the violent are taking it by storm. Because it was towards John that all the prophecies of the prophets and the Law were heading, and he, if you will believe Me, is the `Elijah who is to return'. If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen!"

"What description can I find for this generation? It is like children shouting to each other as they sit in the marketplace:

' We played the pipes for you, and you wouldn't dance;
We sang dirges, and you wouldn't be mourners.'

For John came, neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He is possessed'.
The Son of Man came, eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners'.
Yet wisdom has been proved right by her actions.
"

Everything changed when the Spirit moved from John to Jesus; a new era, a new epoch began. Up to now it had been the Law and the Prophets, now it was the Kingdom of God. John lamented; Jesus rejoiced. John sang a dirge; Jesus played the dancing pipes. John refused to eat bread; Jesus broke bread and shared it in superabundance. John wouldn't drink wine; Jesus, for His first miracle, made 150 gallons of wine out of water. John dressed in animal skins; Jesus wore a beautiful seamless garment. John warned; Jesus invited. John condemned; Jesus forgave. John raved; Jesus saved.

Is it any wonder, then, that when John was in prison and about to be beheaded by Herod he sent his disciples to Jesus to ask: " Are you `He Who is to be sent', or do we look for another?"

Which is perhaps the question we should be asking. After all, what kind of a religion do we really want, John's kind or Jesus'? What kind of a Messiah do we really want? What are we really looking for in our religion? What kind of Church do you want, a narrow and safe one or an open and daring one? What kind of a Christ do you really want to have this Christmas?

 

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