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Sunday Readings for Dec. 5, 2010 (2AdvA)
By Abbot Philip Lawrence, OSB
The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him--the Prophet Isaiah starts us pondering about salvation and what it can mean in our lives. It is fairly easy to understand what it might mean to the Jewish people at the time of Jesus. Many were longing for a Savior who would come and free them from subjugation to the Romans. Two millennia later, we can see that such a longing for salvation does not have anything to do with us directly.
If the Spirit of the Lord rests upon Jesus, what does He do for us? If Jesus does nothing for us, then Advent means nothing. Why would we long for the presence of the Lord Jesus if He does nothing for us? Already in the prophets, there was a growing understanding that salvation was something bigger than just liberation for the Chosen People. We have so many prophets who seem to imply a salvation for every race and every people. This longing for something more is expressed by Isaiah in today's reading: 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.
Can we imagine an earth in which every creature knows the Lord in the same way that water covers the sea? Can we imagine an earth with no harm or ruin within it? This is surely not the earth on which we are living at this moment in history! Probably those who live in war zones, those who live in places where nature continues to wreak havoc, do long for this kind of Savior. Those of us who live in more prosperous lands often just want to isolate ourselves from all the problems of the earth. We don't seem to have a good imagination at all when it comes to solving the wars and conflicts of this world.
We can respond to this first reading with the comment of St. Paul in his letter to the Romans: May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another. What a dream that would be! At present we cannot even speak with one another very well. How different our world would be if we could think in harmony with one another!
We should be able to hear the voice of John the Baptist very strongly on this Second Sunday of Advent: You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. We are that brood of vipers. We don't need to point the finger at anyone else. We have not been able to think in harmony, we have not been able to work together to help one another, we have not found ways in which we willingly give up some of what we have so that others can have a bit more than at present.
John the Baptist is clear that our prayers and our running to God will do us no good at all unless we produce the fruits of our repentance. Those fruits and peace and harmony and seeking the good of others above our own good.
Advent challenges us to seek the Savior. Jesus can save us from ourselves but only if we follow Him and love all others and spend our lives doing good for them. May it be so in our lives.