Dec. 7, 2019

SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT, 2019

Readings: 1st- Is. 11:1-10; 2nd- Rom. 15:4-9; Gospel- Matt. 3:1-2

“PRODUCE GOOD FRUIT AS EVIDENCE OF YOUR REPENTANCE”

The first reading describes the shoot from the stump of Jesse. The characteristics of this shoot are as follows:

-its roots shall produce a blossoming bud

-the Lord will rest on him

-he shall embody wisdom and understanding

-he will be filled with the spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord.

The hallmark of this shoot is justice, for he shall judge the poor and the afflicted with justice. This shoot shall bring peace and shall restore harmony to the created order. Imagine this scenario where the wolf and the lamb would dine together, the leopard and the kid share their space, the calf and the young lion collaborate, with a little child guiding them. The cow and the bear shall become neighbors while the baby plays with cobra’s den. That means a completely new world order would be restored made possible by the presence of this shoot from Jesse.

Isaiah’s prophecy has two dimensions- transforming the past and recreating the new. If we track back to the garden of Eden, “The Lord God formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the air, and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them” (Gen. 2:19). God’s creation was all good before the Fall. Wild and tame animals lived together without fear. Human being shared the company of other creatures and was fine with it. The created universe maintained a harmonious space characterized by peace and equanimity. However, man’s disobedience destroyed this beauty and introduced chaos into the world. The shoot from the stump of Jesse will restore creation to wholeness. 

Isaiah’s prophecy also ushers in newness. It will bring transformation in the lives of many, especially those who feel abandoned. The prophet echoes, “On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious” (Is. 11:10). It announces hope for those on the margins. Saint Paul writes, “For I say that Christ became a minister of the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, to confirm the promises of the patriarchs, but so that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy” (Rom. 15:8). In the Old Testament, Jesse was the father of David, who was the king of Israel. The infancy narrative of Christ links him up with the lineage of David and begins this way, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matt. 1:1). Jesus is that shoot from the stock of Jesse, the fulfillment of the Davidic dynasty. During his public proclamation, Jesus put this question to the Pharisees, “What is your opinion about the Messiah? Whose son is he? They replied, David’s” (Matt. 22:41-43).

The shoot from the stump of Jesse points to the New Testament Messiah who will bring all things into harmony. His mission is to have all people saved. At the presentation in the temple, Simeon held the infant Jesus in his hands and exclaimed, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word;  for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel” (Lk. 2:29-32). That is the shoot, the base of Jesse’s root, the signal of all nations and the light to the Gentiles. Christ’s coming brings restoration and salvation.

The focus of today’s gospel seems to be John the Baptist. Scripture maintains, “John the Baptist appeared preaching in the desert of Judea and saying, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matt. 3:1). John is depicted as having lived an austere life. His clothes were made of camel’s hair. He had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locust and wild honey. John is referred to like that voice crying out in the desert, inviting everyone to repentance. John’s preaching was very direct. He challenged the Pharisees and the Sadducees to live up to the gospel. John’s goal was not to impress his crowd. He was not interested in making his listeners feel good. He was interested in making them discover Jesus and be saved. John was on the scene, but Jesus was at the center of his message, “the one who is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals.” John delivered the good news to his audience.

What stood out in the gospel is John’s invitation to action. He said to his listeners, “Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.” Why don’t we go with this message home today?:

  • Produce good fruit as evidence of your faith.
  • Produce good fruit as evidence of your being a child of God, a Catholic.
  • Produce good fruit as evidence of your marriage.
  • Produce good fruit as evidence of your being a husband/wife, son/daughter, brother/sister.
  • Produce good fruit as evidence of your being a parent/grandparent, inlaw.
  • Produce good fruit as evidence of your profession- a teacher, lawyer, engineer, etc.
  • Produce good fruit as evidence of your being a politician, a public servant.
  • Produce good fruit as evidence of being a first responder- police, fireman, etc.
  • Produce good fruit as evidence of being in the helping profession (social worker, therapist, counselor, a medical practitioner (nurse, doctor, lab technician).
  • Produce good fruit as evidence of your Christmas celebration.
  • Use your opportunity, position or talent to produce good fruit.

Our concern should be what kind of good fruit are we called to produce. I’m not sure if the size of the fruit matters as much as the willingness. Every little good fruit is significant. Just do something good, something that affects the lives of others positively! For instance, it doesn’t matter whether you’re able to give out a pair of socks or a piece of clothing to someone. It doesn’t matter if you’re able to give a cup of water or a plate of food. It doesn’t matter whether you’re able to visit those in prison or those in the hospital. What matters is that you do it, do something. Saint James tells us that faith without good deeds is dead. Advent offers us one great opportunity to show our good deeds, to match up to our faith with action. It is a time to stock up our storehouses/barns with good deeds. John produced his evidence in a way different from Christ, yet their evidence bore good fruit. Produce yours! Do not presume to say that you’re a Christian if you cannot do something special for others at Christmas.