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Second Sunday of Advent 'A' Homily – Part 1

Bernard of Clairvaux

          Introduction: How Time flies! Here we are already at the Second Sunday of Advent! And "the world as we know it is passing away" faster than we would like, with ourselves moving right along with it! We move with this Sunday of Advent deeper into the Final Age of the World that announces the absolute End Time, when the Kingdom of God will be definitely established. The First Coming of the Lord at Christmas opened the Final Age of salvation in which we live. The First Coming actually prphesied the Second Coming, for just as he came the first time, so most assuredly wi;ll he come again! As St. Bernard put it on the first Wednesday of Advent at the liturgical Office of Readings: "He came in History; he will come again in Majesty; and moreover, he continually comes to us in Mystery". What Bernard refers to as the Lord's Middle Coming or his Comings-in-mystery focuses on the contemplative "visitations" as he called them, moments of infused-contemplative intimacy. To these we can add the mystery comings of Christ in our sacred liturgy, as well as in significant human encounters, and in the multiple lessons of real-life-in-faith that can discipline and mentor us in 'reality' and in f'finality'.

John the Baptist

          This Sunday's sacred readings foresee The Great Messianic Era of Justice and Peace. In a synthetic presentation of today's readings, the Franciscan commentator Fr. Roland Faley informs us that the selection from Isaiah 11:1-10 is "taken from the Book of Immanuel wherein the future Messianic king is depicted, [as well as] the Era of Peace which he inaugurates." He adds that in Matthew 3:1-12 "the beginning of John the Baptist's ministry presents the prophet as an ascetic forerunner whose call for conversion of life sets the stage for the One who is to come" after him. And in Romans 15:4-9, Paul stresses the importance of Christian "hope . . . to be lived in a community of spirit of harmony and charity." In a nutshell he has succinctly introduced us to the three readings of today.

          The Word of God clearly teaches that the Way of the Lord is interiorly prepared by conversion of heart. In the first reading, Isaiah foresees that a shoot from David's line--the House of Jesse, his father--shall bud and produce the Messiah – the Promised One. Like the great menorah (the temple's tall lampstand with its seven branches that burned oil-fed flames in the inner Hall of the 'Holie' of the Temple), the Messiah would be filled with the sevenfold Spirit of God: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and fortitude, the spirit of knowledge [and piety], and the fear of the Lord. (Biblical exegetes teach us that the Septuagint-Greek and Vulgate-Latin versions of Isaiah 11:2 add "piety" to the original Hebrew occurence of 'fear of the Lord'; the addition of "piety" thus renders seven gifts, rather than six [See footnote, NAB, Is 11:2f]. It is from the Greek Version of the O.T. that we drew our Christian theology of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, featured by the Messiah and communicated to all the baptized.

Holy Spirit
          Uniquely, the Messiah himself confers upn mankind the Spirit of the Lord so that we might repent of our sins. The Spirit enables us to see things as God sees things; thus he turns us back to God as our origin and destiny, and thus to God as our happiness. The Messiah shall be clothed in justice and faithfulness. He shal bring in an age of ideal social peace and harmony between mankind and beasts and the forces of nature, among all the peoples of the earth, and between the nations and their God. The Gentiles shall indeed have a share in this, "for the [whole] earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord as water covers the sea." And, "On that day, the Gentiles shall seek out the root of Jesse [in Jerusalem], for his dwelling shall be glorious." As our responsorial psalm celebrated: "Justice shall flourish in his time, and Peace in its fullness forever".

          When the Final Age of Salvation opens, the Prophet Joel in Chapter 1 foresees the Messiah's giving the GIFT of the Spirit to absolutely everyone who calls upon God's Name, even if they are beyond the Pale of Judaism. God's Spirit will give the impulse of conversion to the human heart, which, akin to the Promised Messiah, will be all flame with the Spirit's gifts.

Mary the Virgin

          I remember from childhood that in pre-Vatican II times we had the understanding that Advent featured the great biblical personalities of 'faith-filled expectation' and hope-filled waiting': Isaiah the Prophet was the first personality of hopeful 'Waiting' –> a preacher of Advent who even now continues to exhort us in the liturgy. By the Second Sunday of Advent, John the Baptizer appeared on the scene as the desert-ascetic and penitential preacher;  this also is still the case: John points out the Messiah to his followers and to us! Mary the Virgin in the old Advent Liturgy appeared later, closer to Christmas; she was and still is the third personality of expectant waiting! But since the revision of the liturgy at Vatican II, Mary the Virgin appears even on the first day of Advent in the Divine Office as the featured recipient personality–the Great Woman and the New Eve of Eschatological Hope and Fulfillment. So these three biblical personages still accompany us on our way to Christmas Day and even to the End Time of the Second Coming of the Lord. And we walk in their footsteps.

To be continued...

Written by Fr. Sam Anthony Morello, OCD
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