04Dec 04 December, 2nd Sunday of Advent

Help with the Homily Notes?

Homily Notes for all this month are now online. Access @ Calendar (right >>). Homilists can read ahead …  & send me now stories, insights etc. Welcome!

Fr. Pat Rogers (rogers @  mountargus.ie)

Saint John Damascene

John the Baptist’s life work was preparing the way for Christ. Once the Messiah came, John chose to gracefully disappear.

1st Reading. Isaiah 11:1-10

The living branch from Jesse’s stump is our hope of peace and salvation

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.

They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples;
the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.

2nd Reading. Epistle to the Romans 15:4-9

The Old Testament has much to teach us, says Paul, on how to live in harmony and glorify God

Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles, and sing praises to your name.”

Gospel. Matthew 3:1-12

If we repent of our sins, we can hear God’s message and prepare to meet Jesus Christ

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'”

Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”


Connecting the Readings

Kieran O’Mahony writes: In the festive seasons, all three readings tend to go together. Attentive readers might wonder what unites these inspiring yet initially disparate texts.  We may summarise like this:

• Isaiah explores God’s fidelity in time, expressed through faithfulness to the dynasty of David.
• The psalm is a prayer for justice at the hands of a descendant of David.
• Romans invites us to hold on in hope, given the grace of God’s mercy in Christ.
• The Gospel invites to conversion of heart and to live justly as we await the birth of the Saviour.

There is tremendous energy in these readings, about conversion, justice and faithfulness. Likewise, there is plenty of potential for contemporary reflection and application.

Kieran’s audio-commentary on today’s Gospel is here … highly recommended!

Walking New Paths

José Antonio Pagola writes: Around the year 27 or 28, there appeared in the desert near the Jordan a prophet both original and independent, who made a big impact on the Jewish people. Christians have always honoured him as the one who prepared the way for Jesus. The whole message of John the Baptist can be summed up in one cry of appeal: «Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight».

Twenty centuries later, Pope Francis is calling out the same message to us Christians: «Open up paths to God, come back to Jesus, welcome the Gospel». His intention is clear: «Let us seek to be a Church that finds new paths». It won’t be easy. We have lived these last years paralyzed by fear. The Pope isn’t surprised: «Change always causes some fear, because we feel safer if we have everything under control, if we’re the ones who build, program and plan our life». And he asks us a question that we need to answer: «Are we committed to walk the new paths that God’s newness sets before us, or will we dig ourselves deeper into out-of-date structures that have lost their capacity to respond?»

Some within the Church are asking the Pope to make different reforms that they consider urgent. But Francis has a clear position: «Some are hoping for and are asking of me reforms in the Church, and so it should be. But above all it’s necessary to have a change of attitude». This Gospel lucidity seems admirable to me. The most basic thing is not the signing of decrees of reform. First we need to put our Christian communities in a mode of conversion and recover the most basic evangelical attitudes within the Church. Only in such an atmosphere can the reforms that the Church urgently needs be effectively undertaken, in the spirit of the Gospel.

This same pope Francis is showing us every day the changes of attitude that we need. I’ll point out a few of great importance.

  • Put Jesus in the center of the Church: «a Church that isn’t carrying Jesus is a Church that is dead».
  • Don’t live in a closed and self-important Church: «A Church that closes itself in the past betrays its own identity».
  • Always act moved by God’s mercy for all God’s children: don’t cultivate «a restoration and legalistic Christianity that wants everything to be clear and safe, and goes nowhere».
  • Seek a Church that is poor and that is of the poor. Anchor our life in hope, not «in our rules, our ecclesial protocol, our clericalism».


Preparing the way of the Lord

John the Baptist can be the central figure in today’s homily. He prepared the way for the people of his time to understand the good news of their salvation. That is the way God normally works; He sends the message of salvation to us through each other. As St Paul once put it, how can people know the truth about God if they have never heard it; and how can they hear if nobody is sent to them?

Jesus of Nazareth found his first disciples among people influenced by the preaching of John the Baptist. John had showed them the value of self-control and of prayer; he urged them to listen to the inner voice of God, with repentance and a faithful heart. The high point of John’s short ministry was his meeting with Jesus. Not only did John get to baptise Our Lord but he also helped some of his own followers to go with Jesus and become the first Christian disciples. Through him, Andrew and his brother Peter, and Philip and Nathanael became apostles of Jesus.

Clearly, God wishes us Christians also to help help other people to know and love him. If in the first place, we were more committed to our own Christian calling, we would be more effective in influencing others towards religious commitment. Parents have the first opportunity to point their children towards God. But their words will only be effective when backed up by the actual example of their own faith and prayer.

People can influence others, for good or ill, in all sorts of ways. A special kind of influence rests with the journalists and opinion-formers who work in the media, press, radio and television and through the internet. But ordinary people outside the media can also influence the views and values of those with whom they talk and live. When looked at in light of today’s Gospel, does our way of speaking and behaving in any way help others to share our values, or do we confirm their suspicion that this world is a selfish and cynical place?

And what about fostering vocations to the priesthood and religious life, or to some active form of church service? The ability of our Church to go on as a visible, organised and effective community continuing in the prayer-life and values of Jesus is under serious question today. But if enough people open their hearts to God’s work, as did John the Baptist and those first disciples, Andrew and Philip and Peter, then a way will be found to keep the world aware of the saving message of Christ.

Saint John Damascene, doctor of the Church

John of Damascus (675-749) was a Syrian monk and priest, born in Damascus, who died in Mar Saba monastery, near Jerusalem. A polymath whose studies included law, theology, philosophy and music, before being ordained he served as administrator to the Muslim caliph of Damascus. A gifted preacher who was called Chrysorrhoas, (pouring-out-gold or “eloquent one”) he also wrote treatises and composed hymns promoting the Christian faith. This “last of the Fathers of the Eastern Church” is best known for his strong defense of icons against the iconoclast movement.

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