Second Sunday of Advent
Reading 1 IS 11:1-10
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.
Responsorial Psalm PS 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17
O God, with your judgment endow the king,
and with your justice, the king’s son;
he shall govern your people with justice
and your afflicted ones with judgment.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
Justice shall flower in his days,
and profound peace, till the moon be no more.
May he rule from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
For he shall rescue the poor when he cries out,
and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.
He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor;
the lives of the poor he shall save.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
May his name be blessed forever;
as long as the sun his name shall remain.
In him shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed;
all the nations shall proclaim his happiness.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
Reading 2 ROM 15:4-9
Brothers and sisters:
Whatever was written previously was written for our instruction,
that by endurance and by 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.
Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you,
for the glory of God.
For I say that Christ became a minister of the circumcised
to show God’s truthfulness,
to confirm the promises to the patriarchs,
but so that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.
As it is written:
Therefore, I will praise you among the Gentiles
and sing praises to your name.
Alleluia LK 3:4, 6
Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths:
all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel MT 3:1-12
John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea
and 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 the Lord,
make straight his paths.
John wore clothing made of camel’s hair
and had a leather belt around his waist.
His food was locusts and wild honey.
At that time Jerusalem, all Judea,
and the whole region around the Jordan
were going out to him
and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River
as they acknowledged their sins.
When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees
coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers!
Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.
And do not presume to say to yourselves,
‘We have Abraham as our father.’
For I tell you,
God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.
Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees.
Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit
will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
I am baptizing you with water, for repentance,
but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.
I am not worthy to carry his sandals.
He will baptize 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 his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
My sisters and brothers in the Lord,
Isaiah the Prophet tells us today: “the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord, as water covers the sea.” So often the words of this Prophet speak of joy and of the coming of the Lord. This Prophet also speak about the fire that will come as well to purify us. Advent is a time of preparation, of purification, so that we may rejoice even more in the coming of the Lord.
The second reading today is from Paul’s Letter to the Romans. Listen to this attentively: “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.” This is also about purification. How difficult it is for us who follow Jesus to think in harmony with one another! In the history of the Church this challenge comes up over and over. Always there seem to be groups that head off in one direction or the other. Each group claims that it has the truth and that the rest don’t have it.
For us Catholics, if we are truly Catholic, we accept the teaching authority of the Church and the role of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. This does not give us complete harmony, for sure, but gives us a clear guiding light. Yet it takes humility and purification to accept an authority outside of ourselves. Over and over in Advent we will hear of those who do not accept the way of God in the Old Testament: “He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.” And we will hear of the challenges of the early Christians. All of this can help us long for the coming of the Lord!
Matthew’s Gospel today focuses on the role of Saint John the Baptist: to proclaim repentance and to prepare the way of the Lord. Much of modern culture no longer accepts any notion of sin, other than thinking differently from the dominant way of thinking, or thinking differently from one’s “group.” Modern culture does not seem to encourage thinking for oneself and even less believing in something that might make demands on us to change our lives.
Many people today will not accept that the evils in our world are brought about by choosing wrongly to follow false gods. We prefer to believe that the evils are brought about by people thinking differently than we think. John the Baptist would have a great challenge today telling people that they must repent. Hopefully we who are trying to follow Christ are able to admit our sinfulness and seek to follow the teachings of our Master.
As we continue in Advent, God calls us to deeper repentance and purification—not for any other reason than that we can love Him more. Come, Lord Jesus.
Your brother in the Lord,
In 1982, John Paul II gave a wonderful sermon on the Second Sunday of Advent (see link below).
Why do we pray, meditate and do all the things that Christians are taught to do?
Because we are trying to get God’s help in our lives. Because we are trying, striving, and never quite able to live up to His expectations for us.
Because we are human but we know we have a spiritual core.
We want the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We want that little tiny spark within is, that small pilot light of God, to become a reliable compass that draws us closer to Him and further from our humanness. Our sinfulness.
John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom
Christmas is celebrated all over the world by most people regardless of religion. But for many, Christmas can be celebrated without any inkling of who Christ is or even what the celebration is all about. How can this be? How could such a universal festival be celebrated without the subject of the feast, viz., the birth of Christ, being known? Does this mean therefore that this festival is merely reduced to a social festival that has no real significant meaning for them?
No, this is not true. Of course, in some cases, Christmas is nothing else but a time to be merry and to revel. But in many cases, perhaps, more than we think, those who celebrate Christmas without knowing the historical Christ are actually celebrating His birth and His person without explicitly recognizing it. Why do I say this? Because although they might not acknowledge the historical Christ, surely in celebrating Christmas as a time of love, peace and goodwill, a time of giving and forgiving, they have indeed allowed the Spirit of Christ to live in them and operate in them. In that sense, they, in a certain sense can be said to be really celebrating Christmas.
Indeed, this is what the scripture readings of today want to tell us. What is Christmas if not allowing the Spirit of Christ to live in our hearts; to be imbued with the Spirit of Christ in our lives? Yes, even for us as Christians, Christmas is not merely a commemoration of a historical event, but we are celebrating an event that is happening all the time in our lives, some days more intensely, other days less intensely. To allow the Spirit of Christ to live in us is another way of saying that Christmas is not simply about celebrating the birth of Christ 2000 years ago but a real celebration of the birth of Christ in our hearts everyday of our lives and in a special way at Christmas.
Consequently, we need to ask ourselves whether this Spirit that is being given to us is received by us. The urgent question that is posed to us in today’s lesson is simply: Do we share in the Spirit of Christ, that is, the spirit of wisdom, insight, counsel, power, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord; the spirit of peace and right relationships, like the wolf living at peace with the lamb – those qualities listed by the Prophet Isaiah in the first reading. The reality is that unless we have the Spirit of Christ in us, then Christmas would be just another social celebration; it will be a celebration without the Spirit of Christ’s love, peace and joy; but simply a celebration of the world’s spirit of self-indugence, fear, selfishness, oppression and self-centeredness – those sins that the Pharisees and the Sadducees are guilty of in today’s gospel reading. If that is the case, then Christmas is no better than any other social celebration. If we still find ourselves lacking peace and love and joy in our hearts, then it is a clear sign that we have not imbibed the Spirit of Christ yet.
So how can we share in the Spirit of Christ? For us Christians, we are in a privileged position and we should be thankful for this. Why do I say that we are a privileged people? Because those who celebrate Christmas without knowing Christ are those who are groping for happiness and peace in their lives without knowing the direction. For them, it will be by trial and error, searching for someone who can guide them to knowledge of the truth and the way to life. But for us, we need not search anymore in one sense. For us, as the second reading tells us, we have the scriptures, we have people and models who have gone before us, who have paid the price for their search for God and have imparted their roadmap to us and for us to find God. But most of all, we have Jesus Himself who is our way, our truth and our life – He who is born fully of God and of man, who, as the Paul tells us, is the glory of God. By following His example, we who are united with Him in mind and voice will give glory to God as well in Him. For this reason, we Christians can thank God for this beautiful privilege.
But what is the use of having the roadmap to God and to life, if we do not make use of it at all? The fact is that we all know we have the roadmap but we do not refer to it. It is wasted on us. It Is real tragedy. For this reason, we must take heed of the words of John the Baptist. We need to repent. To repent is not simply to confess our sins but to acknowledge the situation we are in. It is to be aware of what we are doing and how we are living – especially the vain ways of living. It means, according to John the Baptist, to realize that we are saved not by our kinship with Abraham or simply because we have been baptized as Christians. No, John the Baptist tells us as he told the Pharisees that God can raise children for Abraham from these stones. That is to say, just because we are Christians do not mean that we are living the Spirit of Christ in us. So repentance is acknowledgement of our folly and awareness of our foolish and ignorant ways of living. So, the confession of sins is not a mere confession with our lips but more importantly with our hearts. It is a confession that we are living the spirit of the world and not the Spirit of God in our lives.
But this is not sufficient. The baptism of repentance of John the Baptist is still incomplete. It is not enough to give up our bad habits or foolish ways of living. Because when we give up something, we create a void within ourselves. And every void must be filled and will be filled again either with good or bad things. So before it is filled again, we must ensure that we will not fill it with worse values in life; but we fill them with the Spirit of Christ. That is why the baptism of repentance of John the Baptist is only to prepare us for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist therefore tells us that he is only baptizing us with water, that is the water of repentance; but someone, namely Jesus, who is coming after him, is more powerful than he is, that he is not even fit to undo the straps of His sandals; He will baptize us with the Holy Spirit and fire.
This is it. This is the key to the full meaning of Christmas. We are called to repent so that we might appropriate the Spirit of Christ in us. It is Christ who will give us the gifts of the Spirit. These gifts however must not be reduced to those tangible, visible gifts like what we see or might have experienced in the charismatic movements, namely, the gifts of tongues, healing, prophecy etc. Indeed, these gifts are given to some members of the Christian community but not for themselves as such. Rather, these gifts are given for the building of the Body of Christ, the Christian community in love and service. Having those gifts which are meant purely for the service of the community can sometimes make us proud and indignant. That is why these are not the greatest gifts of the Spirit.
But even more important, are the gifts of the spirit of joy, love, peace, truth, wisdom, all those gifts mentioned in the first reading and those fruits that Paul mentions in his letter to the Galatians. These gifts do not make us egoistic, competitive or proud. No, they make us truly loving, forgiving, non-judgmental and peaceful people. Such gifts, as Paul tells us in the second reading, help us to treat each other the way Christ treats us. More than that, these are the gifts that really give us the fire of the Spirit – namely, the fire of life. It is faith, hope, love and peace that make life vibrant, dynamic and alive. Only when we live such vibrant lives, we can then claim to have the spirit of Christ in us – filling us with enthusiasm and joy. With such spirited life in us, surely we will also add fire to the lives of others around us, leading them to share the spirit of Christ.
Let us not wait anymore. The time is urgent; life is short. We need to make room for Jesus in our lives; we need to give Him space so that His Spirit may fill us with His love and peace and joy. If not, we will have a sad Christmas, or at most a pleasurable but empty Christmas. The supposed spirit of life that we happen to have at Christmas will just last for the day and then everything will be back to where we started, just like the drunkard person who suffers a hang-over the next day.
No, if we do not want to be the inn that has no place for Jesus when He comes knocking at our doors at Christmas, then let us give ourselves to serious prayer, self-examination and reflection, asking from the Lord His Spirit to purify us and to baptize us unto His death – the death to oneself, one’s ego, cravings and self-centeredness and complacency. For in the process of dying, we will experience the rebirth taking place in us. Christmas then, would not just be on Christmas Day, but has already begun, and is still taking place, especially in a powerful way on Christmas Day. Yes, Christmas for us cannot be a mere single day’s celebration but it must be a reality every moment in our lives. And it is so, if we allow Christ to be reborn again and again in our lives. Thus, for us, every day will be Christmas. Of course, every day can be Christmas only because we celebrate Christmas Day, that day when God’s love becomes real for us in Jesus.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
What Is Advent?
For many Christians unfamiliar with the liturgical year, there may be some confusion surrounding the meaning of the Advent season. Some people may know that the Advent season focuses on expectation and think that it serves as an anticipation of Christ’s birth in the season leading up to Christmas. This is part of the story, but there’s more to Advent.
The History of Advent
The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming,” which is a translation of the Greek word parousia. Scholars believe that during the 4th and 5th centuries in Spain and Gaul, Advent was a season of preparation for the baptism of new Christians at the January feast of Epiphany, the celebration of God’s incarnation represented by the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus (Matthew 2:1), his baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist (John 1:29), and his first miracle at Cana (John 2:1). During this season of preparation, Christians would spend 40 days in penance, prayer, and fasting to prepare for this celebration; originally, there was little connection between Advent and Christmas.
By the 6th century, however, Roman Christians had tied Advent to the coming of Christ. But the “coming” they had in mind was not Christ’s first coming in the manger in Bethlehem, but his second coming in the clouds as the judge of the world. It was not until the Middle Ages that the Advent season was explicitly linked to Christ’s first coming at Christmas.
Today, the Advent season lasts for four Sundays leading up to Christmas. At that time, the new Christian year begins with the twelve-day celebration of Christmastide, which lasts from Christmas Eve until Epiphany on January 6. (Advent begins on the Sunday that falls between November 27th and December 3rd each year.)
Advent symbolizes the present situation of the church in these “last days” (Acts 2:17, Hebrews 1:2), as God’s people wait for the return of Christ in glory to consummate his eternal kingdom. The church is in a similar situation to Israel at the end of the Old Testament: in exile, waiting and hoping in prayerful expectation for the coming of the Messiah. Israel looked back to God’s past gracious actions on their behalf in leading them out of Egypt in the Exodus, and on this basis they called for God once again to act for them. In the same way, the church, during Advent, looks back upon Christ’s coming in celebration while at the same time looking forward in eager anticipation to the coming of Christ’s kingdom when he returns for his people. In this light, the Advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” perfectly represents the church’s cry during the Advent season:
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appears.
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
While Israel would have sung the song in expectation of Christ’s first coming, the church now sings the song in commemoration of that first coming and in expectation of the second coming in the future.
Read the rest:
Tags: 6, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, December 4 2016, Foundations of Christian Faith, grace, He makes demands on us to change our lives., He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire, Holy Spirit, I am not worthy to carry his sandals, Is 11:1-10, Justice shall be the band around his waist, Justice shall flourish in his time and fullness of peace for ever, LK 3:4, May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another, Mt 3:1-12, possessing the Holy Spirit, Prayer and Meditation, Psalm 72, purification, Repentance, repentance and purification, Rom 15:4-9, Second Sunday of Advent, The Holy Spirit Allows Us To Walk in the Light of the Lord, The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, to confirm the promises to the patriarchs, to show God’s truthfulness