Cycle A 2nd Sunday of Advent

 Is. 11:1-10; Rom. 15:4-9; Mt. 3:1-12

Today's First Reading from the Book of Isaiah [Is. 11:1-10] consisted of a descriptive prophecy related to the coming of the ideal king from David's line. It began by proclaiming that "A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots." [Is. 11:1] Jesse was the father of king David, from whom the Judean kings descended.

When Isaiah said, "The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them..." [Is. 11:6] he was providing a picture of a Messianic era when paradise would be restored. 

The Gospel of Matthew affirms that Jesus was the King referred to, He being of the root of Jesse who was the father of

David. [Mt. 1:5-6; Rev. 5:5, 22:16]

Today's Reading from the Gospel of Matthew [Mt. 3:1-12] began by telling us that Saint John the Baptist proclaimed a baptism of repentance in the wilderness of Judea. John's message was one of repentance in preparation for the Kingdom of Heaven that was at hand. It is the same message that Jesus proclaimed when He began His ministry in Galilee. "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near." [Mt. 4:17] 

The Bible gives us many examples of real repentance. The most famous story of repentance in the Bible is the story of David. When David realized that he had done wrong he had lamented and repented of his sins.

The story of the prodigal son is a story of genuine repentance. Jesus told the story of the lost son in Lk 15:11-32: of a certain man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood.

Not many days after, the younger son gathered all together and travelled to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want.

“Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.

Later when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!

I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.

Peter’s denial of the Lord Jesus was a great tragedy. After the third denial a penetrating look from Jesus (Lk 22:61) and his remembering of Jesus’ prediction that he would deny Him three times were enough to bring Peter to his senses, “he went out and wept bitterly.”

On the road to Damascus, Saul of Tarsus encountered the Lord. Saul knew very well who Jesus Christ was. But up until that time Saul did not believe that Jesus was the Redeemer promised by God. That day, on his way to capture Christians and take them to prison, Saul saw Jesus for who He really was. That was the turning point in his life.

In the New Testament, the call to repentance appears as a fundamental part of the message proclaimed. John the Baptist appears prominently preaching about the need for repentance (Mt 3:2). Jesus continued the message of John the Baptist (Matthew 4:17), and repentance also played a key role in the disciples’ preaching (Mk 6:12). Afterwards, Jesus declared that in his name repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be preached to all nations (Lk 24:47).

Preaching on the need for repentance also marked the beginning of the Christian Church. Repentance was the theme of the apostle Peter’s preaching on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38). The apostle Paul preached repentance to the Gentiles (Acts 17:30; 26:20). In the book of Revelation, five of the seven churches in Asia Minor received an important message from Christ about the need for repentance (Rev. 2:5-22; 3:3,19).

Indeed the Bible leaves no doubt that repentance is a necessary condition for salvation. This means that without repentance there is no salvation. In this aspect, repentance appears directly linked to faith.

Bible speaks of three types of repentance. The first is just a human reaction to the punishment for sin. An example of this type of repentance is that shown by Esau (Gen 27:30-46). At no time did Esau truly repent of his sin. He only mourned the losses he had caused (Hb 12:17). Another who demonstrated this kind of empty repentance was Judas Iscariot (Mt 27:3-5).

The second type of repentance is called contrition. This is true repentance that expresses a deep sense of contrition at the recognition of human sinfulness (Ps 51:3-5). This repentance doesn’t just recognize sin and turn away from it. It also implies a movement against sin, leaning in the right direction, and turning to God.

True repentance can be seen in the words of King David when he asked, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Ps 51:10). This kind of repentance can only exist in a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, and surely God will not despise it (Ps 51:17; cf. 1 Jn 1:9). It can be understood as a gift of God resulting from regeneration.

There is a little story written by a school child.  Miguel opened the door to his grandpa’s shoe shop. He took a deep breath and smelled the leather. It was one of his favorite smells. Grandpa always gave him a piece of candy whenever Miguel helped clean up. Miguel knew he wasn’t supposed to take a treat without asking. But he was hungry now! And it looked like grandpa would be busy for a while. Maybe I don’t need to wait, Miguel thought. Miguel reached under the counter for the candy jar. It was his favorite—sweet and spicy with chili powder! Part of him knew he should ask grandpa first. But part of him just kept thinking about how tasty the candy looked. He hurried and put it in his mouth. Pretty soon the customer left. Miguel ate the rest of the candy as fast as he could. Then he walked over to grandpa. grandpa looked up from his work. “Hello!” he said with a smile. “I didn’t see you come in.” Miguel hugged grandpa. Miguel asked, pointing to the stacks of leather. “Do you need any help?” “Sure!" 

When grandpa finished, Miguel helped him clean up. Then grandpa reached for his jar of candy. Finally, Miguel couldn’t take it anymore. “I took one of your candies without asking!” he blurted out. grandpa set down the jar in surprise. “What was that?” Miguel told him all about taking the candy. “I’m so sorry, grandpa! I’ll never do it again. I promise!” grandpa gave Miguel a big hug. Miguel felt so much better. “Thank you for being honest."

During Advent, we are called to be repentant of our sins. We are called to pray unceasingly, to make penance,  to fast  and to perform acts of charity and be honest.