Jesus Gives Meaning to Life
Sunday December 4, 2022, The 2nd Sunday of Advent
by Fr. David M. Knight
View readings for today:
Where do I think the world is going? Do I feel empowered to affect it? What role do I think Jesus plays in the transformation of society? The Entrance Antiphon is a summons to hope: “The Lord will come to save all nations.” Does my “heart exult” to hear this?
The call of the King:
The Responsorial Psalm gives us the theme of the readings: “Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace forever.” It all begins with Jesus. This is our guiding goal.
Isaiah 11: 1-10 announced the birth of Jesus as the beginning of renewal: “A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse” (King David’s father). Jesus, as the promised “Son of David” (2Samuel 7: 11-17), will establish the reign of God on earth.
But Jesus will not rule like the governments we know. The “spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him” — not a spirit of violence and domination, or of short-sighted focus on only one nation’s prosperity and security. His will be a spirit of wisdom and understanding, of counsel and courage, of knowledge enlightened by reverence for all that is sacred.
“Not by appearance shall he judge,” or be swayed by the prejudices and pressures of the powerful He will “decide aright for the land’s afflicted.” He will bring justice and mercy to the world.
The result will be the reign of God on earth: “an eternal and universal kingdom, a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace” (Preface for the feast of Christ the King). The wolf shall lie down with the lamb, and there shall be “no harm or ruin on all God’s holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord as water covers the sea.”
“Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace forever.” But to bring this about we have to rally to Jesus — gather with him, learn from him and work with him according to his spirit: the spirit described above. He is “set up as a signal for the nations.” Advent is a summons to answer his call.
New root, new fruit:
Matthew 3:1-12 is a call to reform our lives from the roots up. This is the necessary condition for the renewal of society. The call to accept and follow Jesus is a call to re-structure our lives. John the Baptizer begins his preaching with the word “repent,” which is a poor English translation of the Greek metanoiete. In Scripture, to “repent” means to change one’s mind, to change one’s direction in life. It is always a joyful word in Scripture, because it is always coupled with God’s promise to give us a “new heart and a new spirit,” and so bring us into the fullness of life (see Ezekiel 11:19, 18:31).
John calls us, not just to “repent” of recognized sins, but to go to the root of all our sins and change that: “The ax is lying at the root of the trees.” If we change the root, all the fruit will change. The call to accept the reign of God is a call to give God “root and fruit.”
The “good fruit” we are called to bear is not just acceptable human behavior. It is the fruit of grace, the life of God within us, and we can only give it by the power of the Holy Spirit poured out in our hearts. John was able to offer people a baptism that was a human gesture of repentance, of willingness to change. But he said this was just a preliminary: “The one coming after me is mightier than I…. He will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Jesus will bring about changes in us beyond our power to “ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). And, working through us, he will bring into being on earth a kingdom of justice, love and peace equally beyond our power to ask or imagine. “Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace forever.”
But the condition for this is a conversion on our part that is “radical,” that touches the roots of our existence.
We return to the question: “In what do I seek fulfillment? Where do I expect to find happiness?” The answer gives direction to my life. The overall or ultimate goal I am aiming at is the deep root of every choice I make. What I choose to do springs from what I see as leading to a preferred and possible fulfillment. So I need to know consciously what “fulfillment’ means for me.
One element of fulfillment is certainly the assurance that our lives are counting for something on earth; that our time here is not being wasted but is producing something of value.
What is more valuable than to work with Jesus Christ to bring about the reign of God on earth?
The kind of world that human efforts could never produce is promised and possible. Jesus has come to bring it about. This is the message of Advent: “the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” “Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace forever.”
To work with Jesus to bring this about can be the guiding goal of my life — if I choose to make it that. This week poses the question.
Trust and praise:
Romans 15: 4-9 tells us that if we accept the truth of Scripture and carry it out in action, we grow in hope. This is a hope based on instruction that addresses our intellects, encouragement that addresses our wills, and perseverance in living the Gospel that gives confirmation through experience. “Whatever was written previously was written for our instruction, that by endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
Paul is telling the early Christians, who were divided over issues of law-observance, that “love is the fulfilling of the law” (13:10), and so they should not be “quarreling over opinions” (14:1), but “pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (14:19). By keeping focused on what Jesus came to do, and by living in peace with each other, we will encourage each other to believe in God’s promises and in Jesus as fulfilling them.
But for us all to become aware of the Good News we have to celebrate it. Otherwise instruction can remain pure theory and Christian witness can go unnoticed. When Jesus came to “confirm the promises given to the patriarchs,” an important element in the process was that the Gentiles should “glorify God for his mercy.” That is why each of us must join the Psalmist in saying, “I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing praises to your name."
So that people might be aware that they believe and appreciate the Good News, Scripture insists on celebration: “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people,” and “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, let all the peoples praise him.”
Paul repeats Isaiah’s prophecy: "The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles shall hope." And he concludes, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” This is the spirit of Advent!
If I make it the goal of my life to help Jesus establish the reign of God on earth, how could this affect my home life? Social life? School or professional life? What changes can I dream of that are “far more than all we can ask or imagine”?
Write out the goal of your life. Can you see the connection between it and the major choices you have made in your family, social and professional life.
Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry