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I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW | The word of God gives us help in troubled times

‘On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.’

The readings for the second Sunday in Advent were chosen with masterful care. They simultaneously reflect the early unfolding of God’s plan of salvation, while hinting at what that salvation will ultimately achieve. These readings are intended to awaken us to repentance and the hope of salvation. In other words, salvation is not just for “those sinners” but for us sinners.

This humility will lead us a long way in being refreshed by the power of God’s life-changing word.

Isaiah begins by prophesying: “On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” In retrospect we see this clearly as referring to the birth of Jesus.

“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.”

Isaiah lists some of the transformation this chosen one of God will bring about. “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.”

He creates an analogy from the animal world to suggest the kind of transformation that this chosen one will bring about in the world of human beings. Animals that are usually aggressive toward each other will lie down with each other in peace. “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.”

Granted, this is an idyllic future. However, “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.”

In this brief passage of Scripture, Isaiah captures the awesome power of God’s transforming word, which reaches out to the end of time. We have the privilege of basking in the redemptive power of that word, provided we are humble enough to recognize our need to be transformed.

In the second reading, Paul hints at the power of Scripture which gives us encouragement and leads to endurance. Embracing and living that word enables us to “have hope,” and to “think in harmony with one another, in keeping with Christ Jesus.” Hence, we are encouraged to “Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God.”

In the Gospel, John the Baptist proclaims in the desert a call to repentance: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” John lived the message he was proclaiming. “John wore clothing made of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.” He lived the life he was encouraging others to embrace — trading this world’s comforts and pleasures for the next world’s joy.

John the Baptist was brutally honest and blatantly clear. To the Pharisees and Sadducees, he said: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.”

He makes up for his chastising word by telling them: “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.”

John the Baptist used strong language to show them their interior wretchedness so they would seek relief through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The inspired word of God gives us help in troubled times. It constantly reminds us of the glory God has in store for those who keep their focus on the kingdom.

We are living in troubled times. So many people around us live as if there is no God and no accountability. What else would be driving the abortion agenda? What else would be driving the pleasure agenda? What else would be driving the temptation to amass as much wealth as we can?

None of the above bring us peace, but they bring us restlessness and a desire to keep busy so that we never have to listen to silence which might undermine our restless pursuit of noise and emptiness.

Reflecting on God’s word takes away the tyranny of ego-dominated demands. So also does serving others. Serving others takes away the meaninglessness of our daily business. Have you thought of volunteering at a hospital or adult care center? Finding yourself with Jesus as you help out a person in need is truly a most fulfilling experience.

If you cannot think of a person that really needs your help, begin to pray for your favorite charity. God will fill in the blanks. Nurture your call to service with one Psalm a day. Then when the Lord puts on your heart what He wants you to do, it will be an answer to your hunger to serve Him. Spending time with Him in prayer or service is so heartwarming!

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