First Things, Last Things.

2nd Sunday of Advent – Cycle A

Is 40:1-5, 9-11, Ps 85:9-10-11-12, 13-14, 2 Pt 3:8-14, Gospel: Mk 1:1-8

What is the first thing from the readings that caught your attention today?
  • Was it that a shoot shall sprout from the Stump of Jesse?
  • Was it that chaff will be burnt in unquenchable fire?
  • Was it a brood of vipers fleeing the onrushing wrath of God?
  • Was it that the lion will lie down with the lamb, Or that the one who is coming after John is not worthy to loosen his sandal strap?
The readings today are filled with symbolism, rich in meaning and purpose.  Let’s take some time to unpack the symbols and so to become illuminated in our own lives. 

This requires some interaction on our part, it means that we need to become undistracted and really take some time to reflect on what God is trying to say to us today.

All of the symbols that scripture uses in the readings today are given to us as images or ideas to help us to live our lives so that we grow into the Kingdom of God, that we become sons and daughters of God.

Symbols to reflect on
  • The Tree and the Stump
    • The tree (from the Gospel) is the person who is confident in their relationship with God
      • See – The axe is laid to the root.  Do not be fooled and dabble in Sin – not just the trunk – but the root.  Sin is deadly – do not have even an attraction to it!
    • The Stump is the one who has given up on sin.
      • It appears dead, lifeless, useless
      • Yet even in the depths of despair, God can bring about new life.
      • This is the witness of the resurrection – The stump is the witness to hope!
      • Are you a stump or a tree? 

  • Rocks and the Children of Abraham
    • Rocks are symbols of our hearts – our minds are all made up and there is nothing that will change them, reshape them or transform them.  We are stuck
    • See, even from dead rocks God can bring up Children of Abraham – that is men and women who are filled with faith, with a relationship with the Living God!
  • John the Baptist – Penance and Mercy
    • John comes dressed in Camels Hair with a leather belt.
    • Symbols of repentance is the way out of Sin
      • Think of practical ways to counter-act the effects of sin in your life
        • Confession
        • Daily Examination
        • Have courage – be hopeful
    • John lives on Locust and Honey
      • Locust is repentance
      • Honey represents God’s Mercy.  God sees our brokenness, he see that we are trapped in our hurt and injuries.  He sees that we need his Love to free us from the trap of the rock that we have allowed our heart to become.
  • Vipers and Good Fruit
    • Woe to us if we know all of this and persist in our sin.  Then we are like snakes – beautiful and seductive, yet filled with poison and wickedness.  If we fall into this trap, (and here I preach to myself as well) then repent, and bear good fruit.  
    • Good Fruit comes only from living a life of penance and of conversion.  Even to the vipers, whose lives are filled with poison John offers hope for salvation.  All is not lost.
  • Justice and Faithfulness
    • Justice means to have right relationship with God
      • Put God first in my life and worship
    • And with my fellow man
      • Respect others for who God created them to be.
      • Strive for a life that balances individual and common goods / needs.
    • Faithfulness is the foundation of justice
      • If I don’t know God, then my justice is not set on a solid foundation.
      • In what ways am I faithful?  Where am I unfaithful?
  • The Lion and the Lamb
    • When we live lives of Justice and Faithfulness then the Church is filled with Harmony – which is the fruit of Justice.  The Images from Isaiah are when the Lion lies down with the Lamb.  
    • St Paul Praises the Church of Rome for this, when he says
  • A Community of Harmony – of Right living and right life.
    • Let us turn away from sin that this community, this parish of St. Anthony’s can become a community living in harmony, in spite of the ways  that others might divide us.  Let us see one another as God sees us and not by human standards.  To do this we need to become wheat for one another.
The Wheat and the Chaff
The chaff is a symbol of all in our life that is useless, life-taking, destructive or wasteful.  It is our sin, our habits, all of the ways that we do not treat God or others with Justice, all of the ways that we are unfaithful and false, pretentious and vain.  When we encounter the Threshing Floor in life we see those habits, practices and attitudes for what they are – worthless waste.  

On the other hand the wheat is the symbol of the parts of our life that are in alignment with God’s thought for who we are.  They are symbolic of the our ability to be faithful and just, to give God praise and glory, to love our neighbor as ourselves, to balance both the individual and the common good.  Wheat is the fruit of our ability to sacrifice self for the other – to die to our sins so as to bear fruit 30, 60 or 90 fold.  The wheat is the symbol of our ability to live a life of unconditional love  Wheat Christ will gather into his barn – into heaven.  Elsewhere in John’s Gospel Jesus speaks of us as the grain of wheat – wheat that is the symbol of unconditional love, of the sacrifice of God that becomes the Bread of Life in this Mass.  When we come to communion today in this Eucharist, let us ask Christ for the grace to honestly confront these symbols, and to open our hearts to be transformed into a community of Justice, built on a foundation of Faithfulness, so that others may see the love that we have for God and for them to lead them to give glory and praise to God.

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