for Sunday, December 4, 2016
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.
Readings of the day:
First Reading: Isaiah 11.1-10
Second Reading: Romans 15.4-9
Gospel: Matthew 3.1-12
Reflections are available for the following Sundays: