Sunday Scripture Readings

second sunday of advent,

december 9

Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72; Romans 15:4-9; Matthew 3:1-12 OUR GOOD NEWS: Let us prepare the way for the Lord who comes. Christian life is paradox. On the one hand, salvation is God's doing alone. In no way can we earn his blessings. On the other hand, we must cooperate, for God cannot force his bounty upon us. Today's first reading from Isaiah emphasizes that, through his Son, God does all the saving. And yet, John the Baptist (Gospel) summons us to play our essential part. All the kings who succeeded David had proved increasingly unfaithful, bringing eventual defeat and destruction upon the nation. But in the midst of despair Isaiah the prophet proclaimed hope: God will raise up a new king like David and restore the fortunes of Israel (first reading). The first half of the reading presents him in idealized terms. Never realized in any subsequent leader, this prophecy was eventually reinterpreted to describe Jesus, the final-age Messiah who would bring full and final peace as God's appointed ruler. The divine Spirit would confer three groups of charismatic gifts upon the Messiah constituting him the perfect king. (1) Intellectual abilities suitable for a judge would aid in guiding his people - "wisdom" to separate appearances from reality, "understanding" for proper planning. (2) Practical know-how rescues the people from attack: "counsel" for on-the-spot decisions and "strength" to get things done. (3) No self-opinionated tyrant, this ruler will prove docile and open to God's direction, intimately experiencing the divine will ("knowledge"), which he reverently obeys ("fear"). These gifts will be manifested in his rule. Able to discern inmost motives and distinguish truth from lies, our expected Messiah would carefully evaluate conflicting evidence to identify and correct genuine grievances. Nor would he hesitate to impose the severest penalties when necessary. By way of summary, metaphors describing royal vestments emphasize/that he will direct all the resources of his office toward maintaining justice and good order. In the second half, the reading simply but profoundly portrays the hoped-for messianic kingdom as a return to the perfect harmony of paradise. Peace will extend even to the world of nature - animals no longer preying upon each other, children playing safely among former predators and poisonous snakes. Throughout the entire land of Israel ("all my holy mountain") all hurting and suffering, even death itself, will pass away! The selection ends with further unexpected good news, first announced and then explained. Not only Israel but the whole earth shall come to "know (personally encounter and obey) the Lord." The same Davidic descendant destined to restore peace to Judah will be "set up as a signal" of hope and salvation for all pagan nations. In fulfillment of the ancient promise first made to Abraham, the Gentile world too will seek out and find blessing through the Chosen People and their final-age messianic king. Good News indeed: God's love includes everyone!

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