The Consolation of Advent, 2nd Tuesday of Advent, December 10, 2013

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Tuesday of the Second Week of Advent
December 10, 2013
Is 40:1-11, Ps 96, Mt 18:12-14

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click here:

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today in the first reading we have the classic Old Testament passage of Advent, which Handel set to music to begin his famous Oratorio Messiah. God is, at it were, addressing the entire heavenly court of angels saying, “Comfort, give comfort to my people,” now in exile in Babylon. He’s basically saying that her guilt has been expiated, her service of prayer and reparation is all over. Even though there would be a first fulfillment of this in the return of the exiled Jews to Jerusalem, the prophecy was pointing even more deeply to the return from the exile from the Garden of Eden, the exile from sin.
  • Hence we get the fulfillment of the prophecy announcing the work of St. John the Baptist with the words we pondered on Sunday. “In the desert prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low; The rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together. This will lead to people seeing the glory of the Lord.” In order for us to see the glory of the Lord, we first need to do the work with him of making straight a path.
  • Part of making straight that path for the Lord to come to comfort us is to recognize the vanity of earthly things in comparison to the perennial stability of the word of God. That’s what God tells Isaiah to announce first when he asks, “What shall I cry out?” The Lord responds, “All flesh is grass, and all their glory like the flower of the field. …Though the grass withers and the flower wilts, the word of our God stands forever.” This is an important message for us to grasp in order to live Advent well. Today a real danger in the living of Advent is that we get children’s hearts focused so much on things that “wither,” whether they’re iPods or Xboxes or new clothes or soccer balls rather than for the Word of God who comes to dwell among us. Isaiah was to help the people recognize the contrast between God’s word and everything else not associated with God and we need to be Isaiah’s for our modern commercialized age, praising the generosity of those who sacrifice to give to others, but at the same time, not sacrificing for vain things, helping to distort others’ value structures.
  • As soon as Isaiah has helped people to appreciate the true value of the Word of God, then God instructs him to go up to Mount Zion as a herald of good news and and cry out at the top of his voice, “Here is your God! Here comes with power the Lord God.” This is the essential Advent message. God is coming! He’s coming with his power but he is also coming with tenderness: he will feed his flock like a shepherd, gather the lambs in his arms, carry them, and lead the ewes with care. At the fulfillment of the long Advent of the Jews, that’s exactly what God himself did. Jesus would use these images to describe his own vocation as the Good Shepherd. He would do far more than just feed, embrace, carry and lead. He would also die out of love for his sheep.
  • We see a glimpse of the Good Shepherd’s comfort and consolation in the Gospel. Jesus is a shepherd who leaves the 99 and goes after the one and ignites a celebration when he finds the sheep and brings him home. This shows how personally the Good Shepherd cares for each of us. In St. Luke’s Gospel, he would link this specifically to his mission of mercy (Lk 15), saying heaven rejoices more for the return of one lost sheep than for 99 who didn’t need to repent. John Paul II once said about the Sacrament of Penance that that’s where the love of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, where all God’s power, exist just for us as an individual. Whereas at a Mass God can feed all of us at the same time with his Word and his Body and Blood, in the Sacrament of his Mercy, everything outside in a sense stops as God cares for every sheep, lamb or ewe personally. That’s where mountains are leveled and shallow valleys filled in. That’s where rough ways are made smooth and crooked ways made straight. That’s where we recognize and admit that we’ve set our hearts too often on vain things instead of treasuring God’s word. That’s God’s great “lost and found” department. That’s where we see the glory of the Lord, where we see God’s mercy and where we are helped to become the glory of God by becoming fully alive (St. Ireneus: gloria Dei vivens homo). So this Advent it is key for all of us to receive the comfort and tender love of the Good Shepherd one-on-one in the Sacrament of Penance, and allow Jesus to start the celebration.
  • So as we come forward today, we thank the Lord for speaking tenderly not just to Jerusalem but to Fall River. And we ask him who like a Shepherd feeds his flock to feed us with himself as we gather him into our arms and mouths and carry Him within our bosom!

The readings for today’s Mass were:

Reading 1
IS 40:1-11

Comfort, give comfort to my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her
that her service is at an end,
her guilt is expiated;
Indeed, she has received from the hand of the LORD
double for all her sins.A voice cries out:
In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!
Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill shall be made low;
The rugged land shall be made a plain,
the rough country, a broad valley.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together;
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.A voice says, “Cry out!”
I answer, “What shall I cry out?”
“All flesh is grass,
and all their glory like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower wilts,
when the breath of the LORD blows upon it.
So then, the people is the grass.
Though the grass withers and the flower wilts,
the word of our God stands forever.”Go up onto a high mountain,
Zion, herald of glad tidings;
Cry out at the top of your voice,
Jerusalem, herald of good news!
Fear not to cry out
and say to the cities of Judah:
Here is your God!
Here comes with power
the Lord GOD,
who rules by his strong arm;
Here is his reward with him,
his recompense before him.
Like a shepherd he feeds his flock;
in his arms he gathers the lambs,
Carrying them in his bosom,
and leading the ewes with care.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 96:1-2, 3 AND 10AC, 11-12, 13

R. (see Isaiah 40:10ab) The Lord our God comes with power.
Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD; bless his name;
announce his salvation, day after day.
R. The Lord our God comes with power.
Tell his glory among the nations;
among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.
Say among the nations: The LORD is king;
he governs the peoples with equity.
R. The Lord our God comes with power.
Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice;
let the sea and what fills it resound;
let the plains be joyful and all that is in them!
Then let all the trees of the forest rejoice.
R. The Lord our God comes with power.
They shall exult before the LORD, for he comes;
for he comes to rule the earth.
He shall rule the world with justice
and the peoples with his constancy.
R. The Lord our God comes with power.

Gospel
MT 18:12-14

Jesus said to his disciples:
“What is your opinion?
If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray,
will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills
and go in search of the stray?
And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it
than over the ninety-nine that did not stray.
In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father
that one of these little ones be lost.”