Readings: Isaiah 11: 1-10; Ps 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17; Rom 15: 4-9; Matt 3:12.
(SECOND Sunday of Advent)
Christmas is already in the media and the market. We are already preparing. In today’s reading, St. Paul assists us by saying, “welcome one another, therefore, as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy” (Rom 15: 7-8). Individually and in family units we should be preparing for welcoming our anticipated visitors around Christmas starting with friends, relatives and well-wishers. The challenge is on welcoming people in truthfulness which is the clearest manifestation of our love for God and our neighbour. A liar cannot please God as such a person is displeasing to the neighbour.
2. God’s Message of Love in the Readings Today
The central message of love today is that we should actively love one another. Speculations are over. We must take concrete steps to show love to one another. In today’s reading, Isaiah prepares us by reminding us that “righteousness shall be the belt of the waist and faithfulness the belt of the loins” (Isaiah 11: 5). Both our inner and the outer dispositions ought to be righteous and faithful. The prophet Isaiah goes further to say that, “the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall feed; their young shall lie down together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The suckling child shall paly over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den” (Isaiah 11: 6-8).
These animals are representatives of human dominant characters. Some human beings are best described as wolves with all strength and valour but destructive of sheep and cattle. Some people can be described as leopards, another brand of strong and daring creature of God. We have the lion of characters too. In human society also we have the lamblike characters depicting the less dreaded persons but who can be as stubborn as the lamb in their simplicity. We have the childlike persons who are trusting and docile and can be mere instruments in the hands of the significant others. The prophecy of Isaiah mentions a few animals as representatives of all varied characters. The behaviour pattern of many more observable creatures: rats. cats, dogs, chicken, rabbits, horses, monkeys, lizards, etc. can typify some human exhibited traits. Most of these characters are found in our different homes and kindreds. The larger our family units, the more chances of having variety of characters. As part of preparations for Christmas, let us prepare to accommodate and relate well with one another.
But why must we work on ourselves to relate well with some of the ‘annoying persons’ in our space in life? The reason is that the door to salvation in Jesus Christ is thrown open for everyone: Jews and Gentiles alike. All believers are actively waiting for the coming of Jesus, God made flesh. The gospel message is addressed to you as individuals and in group where it says, “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand” (Matt 3:1). We are all called upon to prepare the way of the Lord.
One sure way of repenting is by going to confession. The Israelites of John Baptist era heard the preaching of the fore-runner of Jesus and “were baptized by him in the river Jordan confessing their sins” (Matt 3: 6). In this era of Jesus Christ, we have the sacramental confession concerning which the Church teaches, “The confession (or disclosure) of sins, even from a simply human point of view, frees us and facilitates our reconciliation with others. Through such admission man looks squarely at the sins he is guilty of, takes responsibility for them, and thereby opens himself again to God and to the communion of the Church in order to make a new future possible” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1455). A great secret of making Christmas and our social meetings with family, friends, and well-wishers is buried in the sacrament of penance otherwise called ‘confession’ or reconciliation. A person who goes to sacramental confession, receives absolution and does penance, is most ready for Christmas in clean heart and mind.
Unfortunately, some of us are not ready to take the step towards repentance because of pride. John the Baptist was humble in acknowledging that “the person who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry” (Matt 3:11). We recall that John was the cousin of Jesus. Mary was even a ‘servant’ in the house of the parents of John the Baptist (Zechariah and Elizabeth) during the first three months after conceiving Jesus. John the Baptist has enough ‘connection’ with Jesus that he is even qualified to boast about his cousin the savior of the world. But he did not do that. What then is our connection that is puffing off our heads or bloating our ego to the point of arrogant species about our neighbour and refusal to reconcile with God and one another? The beauty of sacrament of reconciliation (confession) is that it reconciles us with God and paves the sure way to reconciliation with others, namely our neighbours or the people around us. It is natural for human beings to have distant friends who do not relate with them on day to day basis and thus, do not have the opportunity of annoying them unlike the physical neighbour whose human faults and frailities are known to the neighbour. The call to repentance and reconciliation has more to do with our neighbour with whom we share human spaces together.
We must “work for our salvation” keeping the image of our mortal end in view. The gospel of today tells us that Jesus who is to come has “His winnowing fork in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire (Matt 3: 12). This calls our attention to purposeful living even as we approach Christmas and all the attendant celebrations. Let us prepare so that “in his days, justice shall flourish and great peace forever” by paying attention to needs of others.
3. Take-Away: Ask Several Questions While We Wait
Mother Teresa (St Teresa of Calcutta) tells us: “Once in a while we should ask ourselves several questions in order to guide our actions. We should ask questions like: Do I know the poor? Do I know, in the first place, the poor in my family, in my home, those who are closest to me-people who are poor, not because they lack bread? There are other types of poverty just as painful because they are more intrinsic. Perhaps what my husband or wife lacks, what my children lack, what my parents lack, is not clothes or food. Perhaps they lack love, because I do not give it to them!” Source: Mother Teresa in Her Own Words (In print).