Mass of the Second Sunday of Advent
8 December 2013
St. Macartan’s Cathedral, 10.30am
My dear friends,
The first reading that we have just listened to tells an extraordinary story. Isaiah paints an amazing scene. He tells us someone important is coming, a person of great wisdom and insight. He assures us he will be of Jewish descent. He is a judge and a most unusual one at that. He listens to no stories or rumours, treats the poor in a fair manner and the only people who have anything to fear from him are the wicked. However, the door to conversion is always open to them.
If you find the above unusual read on because in this new dispensation if you feel like some fresh air and take the wife for a walk you will be liable to come across the wolf and the lamb tumbling playfully in the field and a little boy giving joint instructions to the lion and the calf. You may find the child and snake playing together and the lion and ox sharing food. He tells us that this will be someway linked to the fact that the country will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord. No one will come to any harm.
If you got your breath back during the singing of the psalm, you were probably wondering what was coming in the second reading. Well, things calmed down somewhat. St. Paul tells the Romans that what was written long ago in the Scriptures was meant to teach us about hope and that people who did not throw in the towel would be offered help by God. He pleads that people should be tolerant of one another, following the example of Christ, and live together in peace and harmony. He says quite clearly that Jesus brought God’s love and mercy to the pagans as well as to the Jews.
When we come to the Gospel passage from Matthew the tempo ups again somewhat. Matthew tells us that a strong messenger has come to prepare the way for Jesus himself. He had all the characteristics of a prophet. His living quarters were desert, his clothing and dietary requirements were unusual. He spoke with authority and showed no fear of anyone in what he said. He strongly urged people to change their ways, to confess their sins and to be baptised in water as a sign of a greater baptism to come.
He told the people that the time for doing was now. There was an even greater one than he who was to come to initiate a new kingdom. This kingdom was for real; it was not meant for lip-servers or for hypocrites, no matter what their status or title. The wicked and evil, wherever or whoever they were, were in serious trouble and the only corrective or healing course available was to make the necessary changes and show integrity and genuine intent by the manner in which you lived your life. It was only if you lived a good life that you would receive the stronger baptism of fire which Christ was to bring. The consequences for those who declined God’s invitation to become members of his kingdom were serious.
So that’s the package; that’s the task of Advent; that is where the Incarnation of the child Jesus fits into the scheme of things. That is the only genuine way to prepare for the coming on earth of our Saviour. The earth that God gave to man and woman to look after was intended to be a place of order, love and harmony. The fact that it was polluted and poisoned was due to weakness and mistakes on the part of man and woman. But our God is not a God of revenge but of mercy. He is coming to deal with the wicked and to heal and restore creation. He is offering to save us from ruin and to restore all things. All he asks is our co-operation. If we make the necessary changes he will do the rest. The kingdom of God can move from the realm of intention to the realm of reality. Emmanuel, God will be with us if we co-operate and allow him.
+Liam S. MacDaid
8 December 2013