In today’s first reading, the Prophet Isaiah speaks to Jewish people taking for granted God’s promise that a descendant of King David will rule forever and the failure to fulfill their responsibilities to the Covenant of Mt. Sinai, while causing social injustice in the land to grow and their rituals to become perfunctory. While the prophet warns against this lackluster attitude spilling over into their daily religious practices, he nonetheless expresses his hope that the son of David will lead them back to God. Isaiah sees renewed hope for the future and prophesizes that this future Kingdom of God will be all that God perceived for His people.
In our second reading from St. Paul to the Romans, which Paul wrote some 30 years after the death and Resurrection of Christ, all are to know and believe that in Christ, God’s final rule began—and the early Christians had high expectations for Christ’s imminent return. St. Paul believed and preached that the new covenant for the people in Christ is for all peoples—a universal Kingdom—which we just celebrated two weekends ago in the Solemnity of Jesus Christ the Universal King. St. Paul also illustrates to his listeners—and to us—that God’s grace through Christ brings the Old Testament Scriptures to fulfillment; and so Paul preaches that all must “live in the now as Christ did.”
Matthew’s Gospel this weekend was written by a Jewish convert to Christianity, perhaps Matthew was even a rabbi before his conversion, some 50 years after the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and addresses a host of issues: (1) the relationship between the Jew’s past faith and practices and the new practices of Jesus’ followers and (2) how could a non- Jew be part of the new Israel in the “age of salvation, the Church?”
Matthew told his listeners that Jesus is the one who fulfills the Old Testament Scriptures and that “a Jewish Messiah will fulfill the hopes of Israel in the Reign of God as the true King of Israel who also brings Gentiles under His rule.” Matthew takes from Mark’s Gospel and from John the Baptist to remind us that “Jewish leaders are not guaranteed a place in heaven because they are Abraham’s descendants but are called to live as such to demonstrate true repentance and turn toward God.” Matthew also tells us that “baptizo” in the Greek meaning is “to wash or immerse”; thus the Messiah will immerse the baptized in God’s own life giving presence.
What does this all mean for us as we enter into the second Sunday of Advent? As Advent is a season of preparation we need to focus on: (1) just what are we preparing for, and (2) how do we go about these preparations? Advent calls us to prepare for two things: (1) the memorial of the birth of God made man in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ and (2) for the second coming of the Christ. In order to prepare for those two things the Church provides us with a particular path to follow in making that preparation manifestedin and through our daily activities of life.
Our faith teaches us that in the Incarnation God intersected with humanity and raises humanity to the heights of heaven. He became one of us and so allows us to share in the divine attributes of God—made in His likeness and image by His Divine Will—we are able to be lifted up by His Grace so that we can become (more) like Him in the world in which we live. Because of His Grace we can become lights of His compassion when we feed the hungry in our Catholic food shelters or provide
medical care to the frail and weak through Catholic hospitals and Malta Mobile Medical Vans. We can become arms of strength in teaching the ignorant and supporting the God-given dignity of
each person as we see in them the face of Christ. We can lighten the load of social injustice with Catholic homeless shelters and job training centers, in shelters for battered women and children,
in schools built in socially deprived inner cities. And we, as Church, offer repentance and forgiveness when the Church opens wide its doors and calls people to the Truth of Christ through
RCIA programs, strong religious education programs, and in youth ministries that call the young to social service and prayerful action. In a nutshell, we are Christ to others when we live-out the Roman Catholic Church’s Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.
The points of our preparation are clear: (a) remember the past and memorialize it. Remember the birth of our Savior and call to mind what that means for humanity and our future—eternally. And (b) anticipate and hope for the future (the second coming of Christ) and work hard to be ready at all times, knowing that while the Church teaches the fullness of the Kingdom of God and His final judgment will come at an unknown time, we know that we all meet the Lord at our death—and that happening is unknown to us also. Everyday people go to work, run to the store, go out for dinner or head up to bed expecting the end of the day or the next day to come, just as we expect the sun to rise each day. But for many , the “next” never comes. That too is a “second coming with Christ.” Let us then listen to the Gospel: “Stay Awake!” For if we do not know the day or the hour of His Second Coming, is it not wise for us to always be prepared for His eventual yet unknown Coming?
In this Season of Advent, let us give thanks for the Church—for Christ gave her to us so that we may prepare for our Eternal future. Amen!