2nd Sunday of Advent
A Homily - Cycle A - 2007-2008

First Reading - Isaiah 11:1-10
Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17
Second Reading - Romans 15:4-9
Gospel - Matthew 3:1-12

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Matthew wrote to show that Christ was the
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.

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."

"Everything written before our time was written for our instruction, that we might derive hope from the lessons of patience, and the word of encouragement in the scriptures" (Rom. 15)

The reading from the prophet Isaiah and the responsorial psalm which followed it hearken back to the leadership qualities which the Israelites hoped to find in their kings.  In their view, Yahweh (God) alone was sovereign and their kings were God's vice-regents.  If their kings obeyed God and ruled wisely, then the hope of having a restored, unified kingdom would be realized.  Although thousands of years have since elapsed, the expectation of moral leadership qualities in those who are in positions of authority still energize our electorate.  In both state and federal election campaigns there has been a note of expectancy that new leadership will be wise and just.  We, as it were, have adapted the prayer of Psalm 72:  "O God, with your judgment endow (our leaders) . . . may they govern us with justice; and that there be 'profound peace' in our day" (Ps. 72).

In Chapter 15 of St. Paul's Letter To The Romans, he speaks of 'unity', and the welcoming attitude which the Jewish converts to Christianity were to show to the gentiles who also had converted to Christianity.  Paul urged that they "live in perfect harmony with one another according to the spirit of Christ Jesus" (Rom. 15).  They were to be as accepting of one another, just as they, with all their differences, were accepted by God.  As one commentator noted, 'Harmony' is not achieved through absolute conformity.  "Conformity", he said, erases differences, 'Harmony' celebrates differences (Anon.)  Barbershop quartets, the "Sweet Adelines", symphony orchestras - even our wonderful Church choirs - make beautiful music when their different notes blend and complement one another.  If one or another member seeks to dominate, you get cacophony, not harmony!

A necessary element in the achievement of harmony is not only an acknowledgment of God's sovereignty, but also a recognition of our dependence on his graces to overcome the human tendencies which are adverse to hoped-for harmony.  St. Paul prayed: "May God . . . enable you to live in perfect harmony with one another . . ." (Rom. 15).  St. Matthew's gospel quoted the words of John the Baptizer: " . . . The one who will follow me is more powerful than I . . . He it is who will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire" (Matt. 3).

We often seem unmindful that we are heirs to these same gifts of the Spirit, through Baptism.  As we move through this second week of Advent preparation, may we be more conscious of the "Gifts of the Holy Spirit" which await only our asking.

Please join with this prayer: "Come Holy Spirit, fill us with your divine fire.  Enable us to use your gifts of Understanding and Counsel.  Give us Fortitude to move beyond the human tendencies which deter us from welcoming and accepting others who are different.  Move us to that harmony of spirit you desire us to have as daughters and sons of the Father, co-heirs with his Son, Jesus.  Amen!

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