One Monk of the Order of Saint Benedict

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The Word of God and the Body of God reveal each other -- the homily worships both.

December 09, 2007

For the Second Sunday of Advent

[It is not my turn to preside and preach at Mass in the monastery today. Here is a homily I wrote for a parish three years ago.]

Isaiah 11:1-10
Romans 15:4-9
Matthew 3:1-12

In twenty-one days, we shall observe the fulfillment of two thousand and seven years since the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.
To commemorate his human birth is one way that we keep in mind his presence in our lives.
However, in this holy season, we are also waiting for Christ to return in final glory as king and judge to usher in the new heavens and the new earth.
Today the Lord’s Gospel teaches us how to live in the Lord’s presence NOW— as well as how to be ready for his final return at any moment.
Our preparation is always the same— whether for his first coming in the flesh centuries ago, or for his spiritual presence and power now, or for his return at the end of time.
St. John the Baptist in the Gospel today teaches us that preparation for Christ the King requires REPENTANCE.
Repent, for the KINGDOM of heaven is at hand!

Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.

Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.

I am baptizing you with water, for REPENTANCE....

The Gospel-meaning for the word “repentance” is literally “change of mind.”
In the Gospel today, St. John the Baptist tells us that BOTH change of mind AND change of behavior are necessary to prepare the way for the Lord to come as a king straight into our lives.
... the KINGDOM of heaven is at hand!

Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.

Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.

A change of mind and behavior prepares the way for the Lord to exercise kingship in our lives.
Such change is no small thing.
Here is how the Gospel today describes the change of mind and behavior that the Lord himself plans to oversee.
... the ax lies at the root of the trees.
... every tree that does not bear good fruit
will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

He will baptize you with... fire.

He will clear his... floor
and gather his wheat into his barn,
but... he will burn with unquenchable fire
the dry, empty husks.

Chopping down bad trees, sweeping up the precious wheat, burning away the empty husks— the Gospel today is telling us that Christ works in our lives with an AX, with a BROOM and with FIRE.
An AX, a BROOM and FIRE!
Sweet Jesus, stay away from me!
On the other hand, when I am really honest with myself, I realize that in some ways God does well to use an ax, a broom and fire in my life.
I really do have some dry, empty husks littering my life.
I really do have some trees inside my life that bear no fruit, and some that bear bad fruit.
Sometimes I really do need an ax, a broom and fire, but I am too lazy and too comfortable to do the work.
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!

Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.

Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.

At the very least, the Gospel today invites us to take SERIOUSLY our need to prepare SERIOUSLY for the gifts that God offers, promises and gives.
In the end, the ax, the broom and the fire enable me to be at peace, to be made whole, and to have joy beyond my natural experience.
With enchanting poetry, the prophet Isaiah today describes the wonderful destiny that God really wants to give me.
... the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
the calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra’s den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord....

There is work to be done in my life; and some of it calls for an ax, a broom and fire.
God wants to clear the way to work wonders in me beyond all imagining.
He wants to do the same for all of you.
All the minor and major concerns in our lives on earth will give way to Christ the King sooner or later.
That will happen either by the second coming of Christ or by our death.
We do not know when either of those shall happen.
However, we already know that in a few moments Christ will arrive here at the altar in his Body and Blood.
Though not by an ax, a broom or fire— rather— by scourges, thorns, nails and a cross, Christ did suffer, and he died.
He volunteered to represent all of us— with all our sins, failures, mistakes and weaknesses.
So his death killed the final power of sin, and gave us a new beginning that rose eternally triumphant over sin and death.
In the Body and Blood of Christ, we eat and drink our victory and our peace— OUR victory that Christ labored to win FOR US.
The work of preparing for that victory to fill the nooks and crannies of our lives might require an ax, a broom and fire.
Nonetheless, as we labor on, let us fix well in our minds that the coming victory has already been won for us by Christ.
The kingdom of heaven is ALREADY at hand.
Prepare the way!

That God Be Glorified in All


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