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RCIA – Justice & Peace – The 2nd Sunday of Advent

December 5, 2010

The Second Sunday of Advent – Justice and Peace

December 5, 2010

Opening Prayer – Come, Emmanuel, to us and to our world. Where there is hatred and division, bring your peace and harmony. Where there is discouragement, bring your hope. Where there is deception and falsehood, bring your truth. Come, open our hearts to your Spirit. Prepare our hearts and all the people of the world for the coming of Jesus, the Messiah, who is peace. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Listen to the rich imagery as we read again from Isaiah.

The First Reading – Isaiah 11:1-10

On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide, but he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted.
He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.
Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest; the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra’s den, and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD, as water covers the sea.
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.

Which of these images speaks to your heart? What do you hear in them? What feelings and impressions well up within you as you hear these words? What message do you perceive in today’s Scriptures?

Imagine Isaiah’s lyrical description of the future reign of God. You find yourself in a garden that appears dead, but as you look closely the tree branches and plants are bursting with new buds and shoots. Animals play and rest with one another. The wolf and the lamb, the leopard and the goat are together. All are in harmony in this Eden-like place. The poor and the sick are being cared for. The goodness and sense of purpose you observe surprises you. There is a strong feeling of justice and connectedness, compassion, and care. (RCL)

What is your reaction as you imagined this vision of life in God’s kingdom? How did this meditation inspire you? What in your own life was challenged as you imagined this glimpse of the future reign of God? (RCL)

The prophecies of Isaiah celebrated in the Lectionary these four weeks are a hallmark of the Advent season. In today’s beautiful description of a future, messianic king, the prophet Isaiah gives us a vision of justice and peace that embraces Israel, the human community, and all of creation as well. … The virtues of the king described by Isaiah are what the Christian tradition was later to identify as the “gifts of the Holy Spirit.” The reign of the king is marked by justice, with a right ordering of relationships in society, and championship of the poor as its key ingredients. … The promise of this passage is not bound to current events as if this or that successor to Israel’s king will prove or disprove the prophecy. Rather, it is God’s Word pulling all who hear it forward into an ultimate future.  Christians have interpreted the passage to refer to Jesus the Christ, whom we regard as the messianic king and the fulfillment of God’s promises. (RCL)

Isaiah prophesied during the reign of King Ahaz, a bad king because he did not trust God’s promise of protection to the house of David. He chose instead to make Judah a vassal state of Assyria. Jesse was the father of King David, the greatest king of Israel. Through the prophet Nathan, God had promised David that his kingdom and his line would be secure forever (2 Samuel 7:16). Ahaz is a mere stump of Jesse, because he is such a bad king. However, even if Ahaz is unfaithful to covenant love, God is not. A blossom from the stump of Jesse, a good king descended from Ahaz, will surely come. (LTP)

Today’s passage describes the features of this future king. He will be full of the “spirit of the Lord.”  On that day, God’s purpose throughout history will be accomplished: the Gentiles will seek out the root of Jesse, the people descended from King David. Jesus, as Joseph’s adopted son, is of the house of David, and he is the king prophesied about in Isaiah today. (LTP)

God’s purpose in having the Gentiles seek out this root of Jesse, the descendants of King David, is to have them seek out God himself. God is always calling us to him. Do we hear his call? Do we want to turn toward him? Salvation history is the story of God making himself known to us and wanting us to be saved, to live with him in heaven forever. Our part is to respond, to be faithful and loving people, and to do our best to do his Will, to do the right thing.

Another aspect of the first reading is harmony. Isaiah looked forward to a time of harmony among God’s people – a harmony symbolized by a spirit of justice and righteousness.  There would be no more chaos, no harm or ruin in the land, but the land and its people would be filled with knowledge of the Lord. Like the symbol of water permeating every crack and crevice, knowledge of the Lord’s ways – justice and righteousness – seeped into the core of all creation, to be absorbed into the very being of all God’s creatures. All creation would be reconciled to itself and the harmony present at the beginning of time would be returned: wild animals dwelling together without fear, children guiding them without danger. Chaos gives way to a sense of perfect peace. (JOF)

Even as the leaves are off the trees now as we head into winter, the new buds are already there just waiting for spring. What is barren now, has the promise of new life. This is a reminder of God’s promise to bring about a new era of justice and peace through Jesse’s offspring. Reflect a moment upon how you, as candidates and catechumens, are like the barren branch.

Responsorial Psalm 72

R. (cf. 7) Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
O God, with your judgment endow the king, and with your justice, the king’s son; he shall govern your people with justice and your afflicted ones with judgment.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
Justice shall flower in his days, and profound peace, till the moon be no more.
May he rule from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
For he shall rescue the poor when he cries out, and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.
He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor; the lives of the poor he shall save.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
May his name be blessed forever; as long as the sun his name shall remain.
In him shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed; all the nations shall proclaim his happiness.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.

Reading 2 – Romans 15:4-9

Brothers and sisters: Whatever was written previously was written for our instruction, that by endurance and by the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another, in keeping with Christ Jesus, that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I say that Christ became a minister of the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, to confirm the promises to the patriarchs, but so that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written: Therefore, I will praise you among the Gentiles and sing praises to your name.

Differences between Jewish Christians and those of Gentile origin caused tension within the community. Paul sees each group as having a part in God’s plan nevertheless and exhorts all to accept one another. This sense of unity and acceptance is naturally expressed in heartfelt common worship and giving glory to God. Advent is a time of waiting. Given this context, a theme of “patience and encouragement” also emerges strongly from this reading. Paul cites the scriptures as a font of patience and encouragement, but then reminds the Romans that it is God indeed who is the source of these things which are necessary ingredients of unity and harmony within the community. (RCL)

 

Mt 3:1-12

Gospel

John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said: A voice of one crying out in the desert, prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.

When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones. Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees.
Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

What did you experience as you placed yourself into this passage?

John’s preaching of repentance is not meant to be some finger-wagging, moralistic ultimatum by which he attempts to “scare” us into holiness. Rather, he preaches to prepare us for the One our heart has always been waiting for. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” “The Kingdom of God means Christ himself” (CCC 2816). For a thing can only be received according to the actual disposition of the one who is to receive it. So John preaches that “we might have hope” in the One who will come with “the Holy Spirit and fire,” who will tame what is savage in wild beasts, who will put a halt to harm and ruin, who will decide aright for the land’s afflicted. With the sure hope of all this, there is nothing more reasonable than repentance. (M)

John the Baptist symbolizes the end of the era of patriarchs and prophets and sets the stage for a new era which begins with Jesus. John uses strong language urging the people to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. The substance of his message is, “Reform your lives. The reign of God is at hand.” In the first reading, the prophet describes this future reign of God: In the messianic era, children and wild animals will dwell together; there will be peace; the poor will be cared for; and justice will reign. John the Baptist preaches good news, but also a warning — this era is upon us, prepare its way. He presents fearful images of fire, wrath, the ax, and winnowing fan to remind everyone that neither external observances nor privileged status will be of help in this new era. Preparing for this future restoration of the garden of harmony, justice, and peace is a painful, wrenching reform. (RCL)

What words, phrases, and images would you use to describe the restoration of God’s reign of harmony, peace, and justice among humanity and all of God’s creation? Knowing that John’s message was accompanied by frightening images, what attracted people to follow him? What in society needs to be reformed in order to further God’s reign? (RCL)

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Justice and Peace as a Sign of the Messianic Era

What do you think of when you hear the word ‘peace?’ The word ‘justice?’

With the coming of Christ the messianic era has begun. The promise God made at the time of Isaiah is brought to fulfillment. This messianic era, known as God’s kingdom, will be brought to completion at the end of the world when Christ has dominion over everything. (RCL) Time began with the creation of the universe and Adam and Eve. God made himself known to the Jewish people through Abraham and Moses and the prophets. God promised them a Messiah, a Savior. Jesus Christ was the answer to that promise. Since the time of Jesus we are in the messianic era, our time. Jesus made himself and God known to the whole world, not just the Jews. We are to live in union with God and our neighbor and share the good news until the end of the world, the end of time, when Jesus will come again and create a new and better world.

The Second Vatican Council document on the Church (Lumen Gentium) states that the restoration of the world begun in Christ is moved forward by the Holy Spirit, and continues through the Church, giving meaning to our lives. (RCL) Just what is the meaning of our lives? It is to be in friendship with God. We need to establish a relationship with Him, and the Church can help us do that. God is our creator and He wants us to know about Him, to love Him, to want to be with Him. The Church helps us by way of the sacraments, which fill us with the grace of God. We still have our earthly tasks to do, and we must accomplish them with love and charity.

In the document on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes), the bishops gathered at the Council state that the life, death, and resurrection of Christ sums up the meaning of history. Christ continues to work in the world through the Holy Spirit, and provides hope for all believers that God’s reign will surely be fulfilled. (RCL) Jesus Christ entered the history of the world as the perfect human. He is our example for living a good, holy life. And it is He, through the Holy Spirit, who guides us towards that good life and our hopeful future.

The sign of the messianic era is justice and peace. Justice is right relationship between and among God’s people and indeed all creation, with particular care for the poor and weak. Peace, more than the absence of war, is grounded in friendship with God. As the perfect human being, Jesus embodies God’s justice and peace. (RCL) While the whole world may not seem like it is practicing justice and peace, we know that not everyone believes in God, or that not everyone wants to please God. For those of us who want to live in harmony with God’s will and law, we strive for personal justice and peace. We strive to care for the poor and the weak. We strive to please God. And hopefully along the way of our journey, we will be an example to our neighbor so that he too may come to live in the light of Christ.

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Catholic Living

The giving tree that we have at the back of church, and our participation in it, are signs of justice and peace. It is a chance for us to help the poor this Advent Season.

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Glossary –

On that day” is used often in Isaiah and the Bible in general. It refers to the end of time when all of the suffering and corruption of this world will end and God’s kingdom will reign supreme.

The Messiah, Jesus Christ, is the promised Savior and King of God’s kingdom. He is our example and guide to a holy life. Establishing a loving relationship with him is tantamount to our live here on earth.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit – there is an article here for more information on the gifts: http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0451.html

The One our heart has always been waiting for – God is our creator, and he created us to seek Him. Many people have a longing for something, they are searching for something. That something is usually God because he as written his laws on our hearts.

Garden – garden is reference a number of times in today’s lesson. It refers to the Garden of Eden. It was a perfect existence in perfect harmony with God, until Adam and Eve committed that first sin. We all long for that perfect harmony with God whether we consciously understand that or not.

Gentiles – any non-Jewish person. In the Old Testament, God made himself know to the Jews. In the New Testament Jesus Christ brought salvation to all humanity, Jew and Gentile.

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This Wednesday is a holy day of obligation. It is the Immaculate Conception.

M – Magnificat, Vol. 12, No. 10 – December 2010

RCL – Foundations in Faith from RCL Benziger.com

LTP – 2011 Workbook for Lectors, Gospel Readers, and Proclaimers of the Word

JOF – Journey of Faith, The Word into Life, Year A

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