Second Sunday in Advent, Year A
First Reading ‡ Isaiah 11:1-10
He judges the poor with justice.
Responsorial ‡ Psalm 71:1-2.7-8.12-13.17
Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
Second Reading ‡ Romans 15:4-9
Christ, the hope of all people.
Gospel ‡ Matthew 3:1-12
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.
Generated Transcript (7:30am Mass)
It’s interesting in the first gospel tradition – in the Gospel of Mark, the first to be written. There’s no stories at all about the infancy of Jesus, and here we have the Gospel of Matthew; the next of the Gospels to be written. And there’s no introduction to John called the Baptist. No back story, no origin story, nothing about where he comes from, what his connections are to Jesus. We’d have to wait another decade for the Gospel of Luke to be written to get that idea. Here it’s just suddenly – the previous verse was the Holy Family after they had fled down to Egypt to escape the persecution of King Herod. They’d returned, but they couldn’t go back to Bethlehem because Herod son was now the one who was ruling, and he was just as vicious, just as violent. As his father, and so they make their way up to Galilee, and they settle in the little backwater village of Nazareth. And this was to fulfil the prophecy that he shall be called a Nazarene. The prophecy that we don’t actually have anywhere in the pages of our the Hebrew scriptures. And then in due course, John the Baptist appeared. And what is he doing? John is clearly someone who has seeped himself in the words of God. He knows what the problem is. He understands that its essence. The people of Israel, even though centuries before they had returned from exile. Even though they had lost everything and they came. Back to Jerusalem. They re established Jerusalem as a city that the capital of their kind of Kingdom. It was a puppet Kingdom under the occupation of different regimes. There’s the Babylonians and then the Greeks and the Romans. Apart from that brief little period at just over a century before, when the Maccabees. Had conquered and they had set up a a new Kingdom that didn’t really last long and didn’t really produce a whole lot of fruit ’cause it was very violent and it’s it’s. So Jerusalem was there, they’d rebuilt the temple, but unlike the First Temple, unlike that First Temple that Solomon had built and dedicated 1000 years before. When there’s this beautiful description of the very presence of the Lord coming down upon that temple, and the glory of the Lord resting in that place, and suddenly the people knew that that was the place where they could go to encounter the Lord. That was the place where they could go, and offer their sacrifices, and had their sins. But there’s no equivalent description anywhere in the Second Temple period. There’s nothing to indicate that the Second Temple had become this place of new life of flourishing. And so there was a problem at the very root of the heart of Israel. This sense that even though physically the people had. Spiritually, they hadn’t. And so John, when he begins his ministry, doesn’t go to the full court of the Temple in Jerusalem. He doesn’t go there too. There’s already the mikvah that those pools that are there to be able to wash your sins. He doesn’t want people there. He takes them away over the ridgeline, down deeply into steeply down into the Jordan Valley into that desert place and there near the town of Jericho. This little Oasis, you can see the the thin ribbon of the Jordan River in flowing down through this. Is it? ’cause that’s where the people have to return. They have to go back to where it began where they first crossed that not led by Moses ’cause he stayed and died on the other side. But Joshua, though the one who was to save the people, the one who was to lead the people. Joshua Lid the people through that same waters of the Jordan into the promised land. And then centuries later. When the people returned from exile, they went back through that same water, and so John invites people there. To this sacred place, the place of beginning, the place of new beginnings. And and then is for us this same opportunity? To go back and to recognise those places, those experiences those things. That we’ve got. Wrong, those things that aren’t assisting us anymore. Those elements that aren’t there to give us that fullness of life. And God is inviting us also to confess our sins, to go down into the waters of the Jordan, and to hear this message of repentance. To hear that what we are is to be a people of God. What we are is to be faithful to the covenant. What we are is to find our life and our fulfilment in the service and worship of God. That’s where our lives will will find its completion. And it’s so challenging at this time of the year, with all of the pressure of the end of year, functions and all of the events that we continually get caught up in the midst of all those things that that can distract us can lead us away that can just confuse us. And here the church is inviting us to a new beginning, a fresh start. This opportunity to just to say, hey. All these things. All of these ways that we have attempted to encounter God. All of these different ways that we have attempted to do good things. Some of them aren’t working, some of them aren’t. Helpful, some of them aren’t actually bringing us more deeply into that encounter with the living God. And so it’s time. It’s time to say that we need this cleansing. We need this refreshing. Not just with the waters of repentance. But as John says, there is one who is coming. We’ll wrap ties you not just with water, but with the Holy Spirit and with fire. We need that cleansing. We need that purification. We need that life that God alone is able to offer to us that opportunity to find that full identity and peace and joy, and wonder and giftedness in being free from all of the stuff that builds up. You know, just as there’s some smoke in the air this morning, you know there’s the dust or the settling that all that that, that kind of just gets in the way and prevents us from experiencing this freedom. So also we need to to say to the Lord, yes. Let’s just recognise that there’s this stuff in my life that is no longer helpful. And to surrender that to the Lord. But not just in our heads is not just this action or this thought pattern, or this decision that we make to repent and turn away from things. John says no. I I need you to recognise that for this repentance to be real. The Pharisees and scribes were. The Sadducees were also invited into this experience, but the one condition was. Not just in your heads. Let it be a decision that you make in your bodies. Let it be something that people can see in the works of your hands. Let it be something that people see in the way that your feet lead you. It’s not enough just to to put our desires into pious thoughts or words. But as I heard many years ago, no, we need to get up and put feet to our prayers. We need justice to be of the outward expression of that inner sign. The inner conversion that desire of God to bring about this change in this transformation in our hearts so that we can bring about that change and transformation in the world around us. It’s wonderful that we have the opportunity. To support the work of Sir Vincent DePaul this morning, you know it’s such a manifestation of that same desire that desire for justice that desire to allow others to have the basic needs during this this. Season let’s indeed allow that call of the Lord to find fulfilment and life and Joy in God. Inspire us to return. Inspire us to get rid of the junk. Inspire us to be free to serve him and to worship him in our hands. In our feats in our hearts, in the just the public manifestation of our lives. Once we people that others are able to say, Oh my goodness. There’s something so radically different about that person because they’ve met. Because Jesus is not just a thought or a pious idea, but Jesus is the one who’s changed every sense of who they are. And now they are this living embodiment of the very presence of God.