Sunday Sermon for December 4, 2022, the Second Sunday of Advent, Year A
Readings: Is 11:1-10; Rom 15:4-9; Mt 3:1-12
In the first reading today, we hear about a shoot that will sprout from the stump of Jesse. Jesse, recall, was the father of King David. The promise made to King David was that one of his sons would sit on his throne in perpetuity. There were fifty-one kings who reigned after David, but they became so unfaithful that the Lord eventually allowed the kingdoms of Judah and Israel to be destroyed. The house of Jesse was a laughing stock at the time of our Lord.
However, we recall that when the Archangel Gabriel appeared to our Blessed Lady, he told her that her Son would sit upon the throne of His father, David, and of His Kingdom there would be no end. The promise God made to David was not fulfilled in the way one might have expected on the natural level, but it was fulfilled in a way far surpassing what David could ever have imagined possible. If we think of the house of Jesse as a tree, it was cut down and all that was left was a stump. However, from the roots of that stump came a new shoot that only God could cause to happen.
At the end of the first reading we hear that the Gentiles would seek out this root of Jesse. This is exactly what St. Paul speaks of in the second reading. He tells us that Jesus came to the Jewish people to show God’s truthfulness and to confirm the promises made to the Patriarchs. In other words, our Lord demonstrated that what the Patriarchs and the Prophets had been told was all true and everything God promised would be fulfilled perfectly but, as we have seen, maybe not in the way one would have expected.
Beyond this, St. Paul says Jesus came so that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy. This, too, is part of what was prophesied. Once again, this was not fulfilled the way the Jewish people would have anticipated. In Christ, the Gentiles did not need to become Jewish. What is more, the Jewish people had to open their minds and hearts to the fulness of truth as revealed in Christ. They needed to see that everything promised to them is fulfilled in Jesus, but He has now built upon the Jewish foundation by giving us further revelations and promises.
So, the Jews had to move from their way of thinking to be able to see beyond what they already had received. The Gentiles had to change their way of thinking to conform themselves to the truth. In both, there needs to be a sincere seeking out of and acceptance of the fulness of truth. This is what St. Paul is addressing when he prays that we would think in harmony with one another in keeping with Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Truth, so if our thinking is in keeping with Christ, then we are thinking according to the truth.
Of course, it is not enough to simply acknowledge the truth, we must embrace and live that truth. If we have been living a certain way that is not in keeping with Christ then, when we learn what the truth is, we need to change the way we are living so that we are living the truth. Many today give lip service to the Lord, but they either do not know the truth or they do not want to change their way of life to conform themselves to the truth. They live like pagans while professing Christ. This did not work two thousand years ago and it does not work now.
St. John the Baptist challenged the Pharisees and Sadducees to live what they were professing. At that time, they came to John to be baptized. They needed to repent of their sins before they could be baptized, but the Baptist told them they needed to produce good fruit as evidence of their repentance. It was not enough, he said, for them to give lip service by saying Abraham was their father. It is true, Abraham was their father, but if they were not living the faith of Abraham, what good was it to claim to be his descendants?
This is where we find ourselves now. What good is it to proclaim faith in Jesus if we refuse to live it? We need to repent, but words are not enough. We need to show good fruit as evidence of our repentance. St. John’s message was repentance to prepare the way of the Lord and to make straight His paths. The most perfect means of doing this is to conform our minds to the truth and to bear good fruit in the way we live our lives for the glory of God!
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 www.thewandererpress.com.