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Sunday, December 8, 2019

A Homily - The Second Sunday of Advent, The Feast of the Immaculate Conception A Holy Day of Obligation (Year A)

A Homily


First Reading – Isaiah 11:1-10 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 71(72):1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17 ©
Second Reading – Romans 15:4-9 ©
Gospel Acclamation – Luke 3:4, 6
The Gospel According to Matthew 3:1 - 12 ©


The Second Sunday of Advent, The Feast of the Immaculate Conception
A Holy Day of Obligation (Year A)


Let your heart be filled with hope, let it overflow.

Consider the words of the prophet, his encouragement to the people; he speaks with one eye on the past and one eye toward the future, Isaiah dwells in the midst of crises and promises the people a return to the way of justice, of peace for the people, of an end to the violence and conflicts that had come to be an ordinary feature of life..

Hope is eternal, and though God, the creator of the universe, though God does not interfere in our lives or with the order of creation, nevertheless the divine purposed is draw all things and all people to God’s own self, through the eternal mystery of God’s own being. If not in this world then in the next.

God’s promise is real and true, but God will not come to our rescue in this world.

God has made you and me, God had made us, and the world absolutely free, God will not intervene in our choices or spare us from their consequences.

Remember this, God is not a king.

Listen to the apostle; the teaching of the prophets, of all our sages and seers, consider the lives of the patriarchs as they are recorded in the sacred texts, they have one purpose, to furnish hope in the hearts of the people.

Our path is lit by the lamp of hope, so that in its light we may abandon fear and find ourselves free to love one another as Jesus taught us.

Our faith is belief in the things we hope for; a world governed in justice and mercy, a world at peace. 

Be mindful!

The understanding of history is a great tool. The Christian tradition has always attempted to root itself in historical realities, though with greater and lesser degrees of success.

The study of our tradition gave birth to modern historical criticism; without which, as a culture, we would have no understanding of the uses and limitations of history whatsoever, and that took eighteen hundred years to develop.

Our stories, our narrative about the life and mission, the arrest and killing of Jesus are a part of the testimony of our faith. It helps us to locate in time the singular moment when our cultural commitment to the teachings of Jesus took place.

We remember the rule of Tiberius, heir to Augustus, and the reign of Herod, and governance of Pontius Pilate.

We recall the role that Pilate played in the killing of Jesus, we shout it out at every hour of every day in all parts of the world; that Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified and buried. This story is told unceasingly and without end.

It is long since time that we, as heirs to the ministry and teaching of Jesus, forgive Pilate for the role he played in that political murder.

John the Baptist taught us to repent, and be forgiven, but Jesus taught us to simply forgive, and thereby to accept the forgiveness that has already been issued.

Jesus forgave those who killed him he asked God to forgive them when he was up on the cross.

It is time we do the same.

The promise of Isaiah, which John echoed in the wilderness, this promise cannot be realized until we take up our part in it.

God is the author of our salvation, but we are the agents. It is incumbent on us to proceed with the healing, if the human race is to be healed.


John the Baptist was a social critic, and that is the role of the prophet, he stood within the tradition and criticized its institutions.

John the Baptist was not alone in this, he dwelt on the margins of society along with those who saw and experienced the same troubles as he did. They were on the margins both figuratively, and literally, they represented a new movement and preached a new path for the people. They were so controversial that they had to do their preaching away from the towns and cities. That is what they did, the preached in the wilderness and the people came out to see them.

Isaiah did not foretell the coming of John the Baptist. In fact, Isaiah was not a real historical figure, but the school of Isaiah, those who wrote in his name, they offered their criticism of their tradition, and assured people that when they were gone others would come.

They foresaw that.

John did the same thing. He knew his days were numbered, and he knew another would come after him. He might even have known that Jesus of Nazareth would pick up his work, but that fact is unimportant, because he knew that if not Jesus, then another would follow; sooner or later another would follow.

That is still true today.

The prophets are among us, they are preaching and teaching and pointing out the way. The prophets are present in every generation. The voice of the prophet is present in the heart of every human being; waiting, nascent, patient, desiring to be voiced and heard.

Do not believe that being baptized and being a Christian makes you special. Being a member of one of the tribes of Israel did not make the Sadducees or the Pharisees special.

Being a Christian does not impart a special gift to anyone, only a special responsibility, a sacred burden to speak with the voice of a prophet, to demand that the unjust be just, to kindle hope in the hopeless, and to be merciful toward the outcast.

This is the way: serving the good, loving justice and being merciful to all of those within your power, or whom you have the power to help.

Do not be distressed or afraid of the harsh language in the gospel. Do not be afraid of the fire, because in scripture, fire is a symbol of our encounter with God. The fire that never ends, the eternal fire burns in the heart of God. We know this because God, and God alone is the arbiter of the eternal, and there is no other eternal being who is not God.


Our encounter with God is a moment of transformation, of transfiguration, it comes to every person, and depending on who you are or how ready you are to experience it, the encounter might be painful, but it is not destructive.

The fire of God refines, just as the power of love, and justice, and mercy do.

Be like John. Preach the faith, love what is good, walk humbly in justice and mercy.

Spread the good news; God loves you.

First Reading – Isaiah 11:1-10 ©

A Shoot Springs From the Stock of Jesse

A shoot springs from the stock of Jesse, a scion thrusts from his roots: on him the spirit of the Lord rests, a spirit of wisdom and insight, a spirit of counsel and power, a spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.

(The fear of the Lord is his breath.)

He does not judge by appearances, he gives no verdict on hearsay, but judges the wretched with integrity, and with equity gives a verdict for the poor of the land.

His word is a rod that strikes the ruthless, his sentences bring death to the wicked.
Integrity is the loincloth round his waist, faithfulness the belt about his hips.

The wolf lives with the lamb, the panther lies down with the kid, calf and lion feed together, with a little boy to lead them.

The cow and the bear make friends, their young lie down together.

The lion eats straw like the ox.

The infant plays over the cobra’s hole; into the viper’s lair the young child puts his hand.

They do no hurt, no harm, on all my holy mountain, for the country is filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters swell the sea.

That day, the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples.

It will be sought out by the nations and its home will be glorious.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 71(72):1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17 ©

In his days justice shall flourish, and peace till the moon fails.

O God, give your judgement to the king,
  to a king’s son your justice,
that he may judge your people in justice
  and your poor in right judgement.

In his days justice shall flourish, and peace till the moon fails.

In his days justice shall flourish
  and peace till the moon fails.
He shall rule from sea to sea,
  from the Great River to earth’s bounds.

In his days justice shall flourish, and peace till the moon fails.

For he shall save the poor when they cry
  and the needy who are helpless.
He will have pity on the weak
  and save the lives of the poor.

In his days justice shall flourish, and peace till the moon fails.

May his name be blessed for ever
  and endure like the sun.
Every tribe shall be blessed in him,
  all nations bless his name.

In his days justice shall flourish, and peace till the moon fails.

Second Reading – Romans 15:4-9 ©

Christ is the Saviour of All Men

Everything that was written long ago in the scriptures was meant to teach us something about hope from the examples scripture gives of how people who did not give up were helped by God. And may he who helps us when we refuse to give up, help you all to be tolerant with each other, following the example of Christ Jesus, so that united in mind and voice you may give glory to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It can only be to God’s glory, then, for you to treat each other in the same friendly way as Christ treated you. The reason Christ became the servant of circumcised Jews was not only so that God could faithfully carry out the promises made to the patriarchs, it was also to get the pagans to give glory to God for his mercy, as scripture says in one place: For this I shall praise you among the pagans and sing to your name.

Gospel Acclamation – Luke 3:4, 6

Alleluia, alleluia!

Prepare a way for the Lord,
make his paths straight,
and all mankind shall see the salvation of God.


The Gospel According to Matthew 3:1 - 12 ©

The One Who Follows Me Will Baptize You With the Holy Spirit and Fire

In due course John the Baptist appeared; he preached in the wilderness of Judaea and this was his message: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’ This was the man the prophet Isaiah spoke of when he said:

A voice cries in the wilderness:
Prepare a way for the Lord,
make his paths straight.

This man John wore a garment made of camel-hair with a leather belt round his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judaea and the whole Jordan district made their way to him, and as they were baptised by him in the river Jordan they confessed their sins. But when he saw a number of Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism he said to them, ‘Brood of vipers, who warned you to fly from the retribution that is coming? But if you are repentant, produce the appropriate fruit, and do not presume to tell yourselves, “We have Abraham for our father,” because, I tell you, God can raise children for Abraham from these stones. Even now the axe is laid to the roots of the trees, so that any tree which fails to produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown on the fire. I baptise you in water for repentance, but the one who follows me is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to carry his sandals; he will baptise 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 the barn; but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out.’

The Second Sunday of Advent, The Feast of the Immaculate Conception
A Holy Day of Obligation (Year A)

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