THEME: ALL SHALL LIVE IN PEACE
READINGS: Isaiah 11:1-10 / Romans 15:4-9 / Matthew 3:1-12
2nd Sunday of Advent
During the weekend of the Second Sunday of Advent in 2013, the world joined South Africans to mourn the departure of President Nelson Mandela, a great son of the continent. Even in his period (1962-1990) of imprisonment, he was a symbol of hope for reconciliation and peace between whites and blacks in South Africa. Thus, with his election as President in 1994, South Africans began to realize the dream of reconciliation, peace and prosperity. His story illustrates today’s message.
HOPE FOR A TIME OF PEACE
Like the South Africans, the Israelites of old hoped for a time of peace and prosperity. They hoped that God would set them free from their oppressors and grant them peace. In today’s first reading, the prophet Isaiah provided the Israelites with an inspiring picture of the peace God had in store for them: “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb; the leopard shall lie down with the young goat; the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain…” (Isaiah 11:6-9).
Beloved, in the Garden of Eden before the fall of Adam and Eve, no animal attacked others despite their proximity. Therein, even the cat and mouse played together. Therefore, a lesson of Isaiah’s picture of peace is that God would restore the peace that existed in the beginning of the world.
THE PRINCE OF PEACE
As President Mandela was the instrument of peace for the South Africans, so the prophet Isaiah prophesied that God’s promise of peace will be realized through His Messiah, the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). The people of Israel had known peace and prosperity in the days of King David, the son of Jesse. It was, therefore, very reassuring when they heard that the promised Messiah would come from the same house of Jesse: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots’” (Isaiah 11:1).
Moreover, the promised Messiah would be greater than David and his son, Solomon! While David was seen as a powerful warrior, Solomon was known for his wisdom. Amazingly, the promised Messiah would possess qualities that exceeded the combined attributes of these two kings. He would not only be more powerful and wiser than them, He would have extra spiritual qualities that His predecessors did not have. Thus, Isaiah prophesied about him: “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:2).
PREPARING FOR THE MESSIAH’S COMING
Preparations have to be made for us to enjoy the otherworldly peace which the awesome Messiah brings. It is clear from history that great men and women achieved greatness not from ground zero but by building on the preparations others have made. In the case of President Mandela, the founders of African National Congress (ANC) prepared the ground and brought him on board. Similarly, various prophets prepared the way for the Messiah’s first coming. Thus, today’s gospel reading informs us that John the Baptist was the one who made the immediate preparations for the coming of Jesus the Messiah. To prepare the people to be blessed with everlasting peace in Jesus Christ, the Baptist proclaimed that all should be truly repented. That is, there should be a true sorrow for sins, a sincere resolve not to commit them again, an honest confession of sins, and a new way of life.
Beloved, St. Paul says that “everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4, second reading). Therefore, beloved as we hope for the eternal peace that Jesus Christ brings us, let us be truly repented.
LIVE IN PEACE WITH OTHERS
True repentance leads to not only reconciliation with God but also peace with others. Indeed, our celebration of the birth of the “Prince of Peace” will be a contradiction or meaningless, if we do not strive to live in peace with others. So, like the child and cobra living in peace, parents and children should live in harmony. Like the bear and cow living in peace, so should husband and wife live in peace. Like the leopard and young goat living in harmony, so should siblings live in peace. Like the lion and calf living in harmony, so should a boss and the subordinates live in peace. Like the wolf and lamb living in peace, so should people of different political parties live in harmony. Now, permit me to add that like the cat and mouse living in harmony, so should the police/military and citizens live in peace.
In short, like the wolf and lamb, the calf and lion, the cow and bear, the child and cobra living in peace, let us learn to forgive others and be reconciled with them; for it is a way of getting used to the peace of heaven, where former enemies would be friends forever and ever. Amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis