Sunday Sermon for December 4, 2016, the Second Sunday of Advent, Year A

Readings: Is 11:1-10; Rom 15:4-9; Mt 3:1-12

In the readings today we are presented with Messianic prophecy. In the first reading Isaiah speaks about the shoot that will sprout from the stump of Jesse, how He will judge the people, and the radical changes that will take place on the earth when the people of the world embrace the truth. In the Gospel St. John the Baptist speaks about the coming of the Kingdom of God and the need for repentance on the part of the people in preparation for that Kingdom. He tells the Pharisees that they have to perform works that will demonstrate their repentance.

In the second reading St. Paul speaks of the the purpose of our Lord’s coming into the world. It was, indeed, to show God’s truthfulness and to confirm the Patriarchs, but it was so that the Gentiles might glorify God’s mercy. Isaiah speaks of the Gentiles seeking out the root of Jesse that is set up as a signal for them, but St. Paul tells us that it is for the glory of God.

We have already seen the fulfillment of what St. John the Baptist spoke since his message was the immediate preparation for the revelation of Jesus to the Israelites. However, his message continues to call each of us to a deeper conversion. This conversion is necessary because we have not yet seen the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecies. Yes, the Shoot has come and the Spirit of the Lord was upon Him, but we have not yet witnessed the wolf being the guest of the lamb and the leopard lying down with the kid, etc. Indeed, we have not yet achieved the point of having no ruin on God’s holy mountain or the earth being filled with the knowledge of truth like water covers the sea.

The holy mountain of the Lord can be understood in two ways. In its original context it would imply Jerusalem or, more specifically, the mountain upon which the Temple was built. From the prophecy of Daniel we know that the mountain of the Lord is Jesus Himself, but the Church is the Mystical Christ and is the place of truth where all peoples can come to find the Truth and the salvation of their souls in the Person of Jesus Christ. Regardless of which way we look at it, there is no one who could claim that there is no ruin on God’s holy mountain.

Jerusalem is sharply divided and there is a mosque on the Temple Mount. The Church is plagued by schisms and heresies. Just in America Catholicism has the largest number of people, but the second largest number is fallen away Catholics. St. Paul prayed that God would grant us to think in harmony with one another in keeping with Jesus Christ so that with one voice we can glorify God. Unfortunately, the only thing that can be said that we are thinking about in harmony with one another is that we are not in harmony with one another.

Even among those who call themselves Catholic, we have many who are not one with the mind of Christ. There are those who do not believe in the Eucharist, or they are in favor of contraception, abortion, or euthanasia. At the same time, we have people who profess to believe in what the Church teaches, but money, materialism, power, self gain, etc. are more important to them than God. They would deny this in their words, but their actions betray them. Like the challenge leveled against the Pharisees, we all need to show by our actions that we are intent on doing the Lord’s will.

With so much division and so many problems, we are we to do? First of all, we are to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Lord. By this I mean that we need to be rooted in the truth and in charity. We have to be conformed to the mind of Christ and we need to produce good fruit as the demonstration of our union with God. The only way this can happen is if we have made prayer and union with God are the top priorities in our lives. When we have achieved this union with God we will not only have a straight path prepared for the Lord, but we will have the peace and harmony that can only come from God.

When enough people are seeking such union with God, they will automatically have union with one another in both truth and charity. This will be like a magnet to attract others who see in these people what they are missing within themselves. Only when this takes place can the changes prophesied by Isaiah be realized. We will think in harmony with Christ and we will glorify God with one voice.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit