Homily for the 2nd Sunday in Advent Year A
Jesse was the father of the great King David of the Old Testament. He is often looked upon as the first person in the genealogy of Jesus.
In Church art, a design developed showing the relationship of Jesus with Jesse and other biblical people. This design showed a branched tree growing from a reclining figure of Jesse. The various branches had pictures of other Old and New Testament figures who were ancestors of Jesus. At the top of the tree were figures of Mary and Jesus. This design was used mostly in stained glass windows in some of the great medieval cathedrals of Europe. The Cathedral of Chartres (which was dedicated in 1260) has a particularly beautiful Jesse Tree window.
Another development in religious art during the Middle Ages was that of Mystery Plays–drama that depicted various Bible stories or lives of Saints and Martyrs. These plays were performed in churches as part of the liturgical celebrations. One such play was based on the Bible account of the fall of Adam and Eve. The "Tree of Life" used during the play was decorated with apples. (Quite possibly this is one of the elements that helped to evolve our own Christmas tree.)
Combining the two ideas of the stained glass Jesse Tree window and the Tree of Life from the Mystery Play we come up with our Jesse Tree
The Gospel today tells of John the Baptist and his message. We read “In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near”.
We have all heard this Gospel before. Some more times than others. The challenge for us here today is, not to just make this one more time we have heard this story. It is to actually hear the words and understand. We need to ask ourselves how is this gospel relevant in a way that I can use what I have just heard.
Lets start by looking at the word “repent”
Repent - To make a change for the better as a result of remorse or contrition for one's sins.
To start with I know for sure that there is absolutely no one here who has not sinned. Not me not Father Gerald, not anyone. So we can say we have fulfilled part of the definition of repent. That was the easy part. The other part of the definition was to “make a change”. This is a little harder to do than to be a sinner. Its a peice of cake to be a sinner… no trouble at all. But to make a change now that is hard.
First we need to look at what this change is relative too. Is it relative to the way we golf or play hockey. Could be. Is it relative to how we treat our dogs or pets. Maybe.
Really for us today it is relative to the coming of the Kingdom of God, to the birth of Christ, to God made man. So this change we speak of is something that we all need to do to prepare for this special day, this coming of the Son of Man. We could put it in the form of another question …. is your heart ready for the arrival of the Lord.
One of the ways we can prepare is by prayer. You may say “I already pray”, this is true. But maybe we need to pray for God to give us the grace to change just one little thing that may make us just a little closer to him. One grace to make us strong to be just a little less sinful.
Another way to change, instead of less sinful, we can pray for the grace to be more loving. This can surely apply to everyone here as well. And by more loving I mean towards your family and neighbors and especially towards our God. Who gives us his Son, the baby Jesus, who has changed us and this world for all time to come. So much so that we have actually moved this fact to the back of our minds. Its sort of like getting a gift of something special, say a new coat or hat and then as the days and weeks pass it becomes ordinary and we just grab it, put it on and head of to work. Our society that we live in is sort of like that and this gift of salvation, this gift of eternity has just become an old coat or hat.
How sad to say that our faith, our spiritual home and the gift of all gifts has been turned into something mundane, something that would be unrecognizable to the people of not so long ago. We need to pray that we receive the grace to renew our love for a gift so great that it lasts into eternity.
Another suggestion for change, that may be a result of the prayers to be less sinful and more loving, may be to resist the commercialization of Christmas, so as to reaffirm the reason we make it a special day. The farther the reality of the kingdom of God is from or minds the more we consume for no good reason. Consuming was not part of the message of John the Baptist. He did not say “repent and buy each other gifts”. John did not proclaim the kingdom of God so that the market square would be full of shoppers, yet this is why the large corporations proclaim this season is special.
The real change we need is one of heart so that it is directed by that voice crying in the wilderness. From this Sunday onward we are to “prepare the way of the lord, make his paths straight!” This is the only thing that we truly need to focus on from now until the big day. We will all do this in our own ways, and it is indeed appropriate to celebrate the coming of the Lord with feasts and family gatherings. It is good to be giving and generous at this time of the year. It will be nice if there are lights and a little snow on the ground (I don’t believe I said that ). And I hope that Santa Claus will visit my Christmas tree.
At the same time I will be examining the ways I have, that do not lead me closer to Christ and, if I pray well, God may give me the graces needed to make changes in my life so that I am able to say that I am truly ready for the coming of the Son of Man.