Preparing for Mass on the Third Sunday of Advent

The prophet Isaiah speaks of the Lord’s intervention for his people. The prophesy precedes the narrative of the invasion of Judea by Sennacherib, an invasion that should have completely overwhelmed the city and its people. However it is thwarted by the faithfulness of God.

The prophesy of Isaiah both stresses the horror of the wrath of God exercised against the enemies of Israel, and the blessing that is for his people, (in the section, highlighted below, which we hear on Sunday)

Israel knew the wrath of its enemies and the destruction they could wreak. But in this place, at this time, they choose to place their trust in God – and the trust is rewarded.

The Book of Isaiah gathers the prophesies and stories and retells them to Israel when it has failed to be faithful and has been overcome by its enemies and taken into exile. Now they return… how will they live now?

First Reading: Isaiah 35: 1-6, 10

Chapter 34
The LORD has a day of vengeance,
a year of recompense for the cause of Zion.
9  And the streams of Edom shall be turned into pitch,
and her soil into sulphur;
her land shall become burning pitch.
10  Night and day it shall not be quenched;
its smoke shall go up forever.
From generation to generation it shall lie waste;
none shall pass through it forever and ever.
11  But the hawk and the porcupine shall possess it,
the owl and the raven shall dwell in it.
He shall stretch the line of confusion over it,
and the plumb line of emptiness.
12  Its nobles—there is no one there to call it a kingdom,
and all its princes shall be nothing.
13  Thorns shall grow over its strongholds,
nettles and thistles in its fortresses.
It shall be the haunt of jackals,
an abode for ostriches.
14  And wild animals shall meet with hyenas;
the wild goat shall cry to his fellow;
indeed, there the night bird settles
and finds for herself a resting place.
15  There the owl nests and lays
and hatches and gathers her young in her shadow;
indeed, there the hawks are gathered,
each one with her mate.
16  Seek and read from the book of the LORD:
Not one of these shall be missing;
none shall be without her mate.
For the mouth of the LORD has commanded,
and his Spirit has gathered them.
17  He has cast the lot for them;
his hand has portioned it out to them with the line;
they shall possess it forever;
from generation to generation they shall dwell in it.

Chapter 35
The Ransomed Shall Return

1 The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;
2  it shall blossom abundantly
and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the LORD,
the majesty of our God.
3  Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
4  Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”
5  Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
6  then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;

7  the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down,
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
8  And a highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Way of Holiness;
the unclean shall not pass over it.
It shall belong to those who walk on the way;
even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.
9  No lion shall be there,
nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
but the redeemed shall walk there.

10  And the ransomed of the LORD shall return
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain gladness and joy,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Acknowledgements

  • Translation of Scriptures: English Standard Version (c) 2001-9, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
  • Commentary: (c) 2019, Allen Morris
  • Photo (c) 2017, Allen Morris. Seige of Lachish, British Museum, London.

Preparing for Mass on the Third Sunday of Advent

Responsorial Psalm 146 (145): 6 – 10

We look for healing, hope, encouragement. But where can we safely look for it?

It is the Lord who is able ultimately to grant blessing to his people – others have no ultimate agency in this world or the next.

We safely look to the Lord for our needs, and to him we best entrust our hopes…

1     Alleluia!

      My soul, give praise to the Lord;
2     I will praise the Lord all my life,
      sing praise to my God while I live.

3     Put no trust in princes,
      in mortal man who cannot save.
4     Take their breath, they return to the earth,
      and their plans that day come to nothing.

5     Blessed is he who is helped by Jacob’s God,
      whose hope is in the Lord his God,
6     who made the heavens and the earth,
      the seas and all they contain,

      who preserves fidelity forever,
7     who does justice to those who are oppressed.

      It is he who gives bread to the hungry,
      the Lord who sets prisoners free,
8     the Lord who opens the eyes of the blind,
      the Lord who raises up those who are bowed down.

      It is the Lord who loves the just,
9     the Lord who protects the stranger
      and upholds the orphan and the widow,
      but thwarts the path of the wicked.
10   The Lord will reign forever,
      the God of Sion from age to age.

      Alleluia!

Acknowledgements
Translation of Psalms: From The Revised Grail Psalms: A Liturgical Psalter. (c) 2010.
Commentary: (c) 2019, Allen Morris
Photo (c) 2018, Allen Morris. Detail from 4th C Sarcophagus, Abbaye Saint-Victor, Marseille.

Preparing for Mass on the Third Sunday of Advent

The reading that we hear as our Second reading on Sunday follows after some of the most strident and condemnatory words in the New Testament. It also comes before some of the most hopeful and encouraging. The context is shown in the fuller passage from James’ letter, given below.

Both critique and consolation come from what James know and teaches about the Lord and the kingdom. In him we are to place our trust and from him derive our way of life.

Bear these things, as you cast your vote in today’s General Election!

James: Chapter 5
Warning to the Rich
5 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. 4 Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.

Patience in Suffering
7 Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

12 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

The Prayer of Faith
13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Acknowledgements

  • Translation of Scriptures: English Standard Version (c) 2001-9, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
  • Commentary: (c) 2019, Allen Morris
  • Photo (c) 2016, Allen Morris. St Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham

Preparing for Mass on the Third Sunday of Advent

Gospel Reading Matthew 11.2-11

John the Baptist was at the centre of the Gospel reading last week, and is prominent this week also. However the reading this week treats of his doubts and his uncertainties.

The episode proclaimed to us this Sunday comes from a section of Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus speaks of discipleship and its cost.

Jesus himself will pay the cost, and so will the other disciples, so will we. The episode regarding John the Baptist reminds us all that it is rarely easy to pay that cost.

But pay that cost, John will – and reap the reward of eternal life.

Chapter 10
Jesus Sends Out the Twelve Apostles
5 These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. 9 Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the labourer deserves his food. 11 And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. 12 As you enter the house, greet it. 13 And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. 15 Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.

Persecution Will Come
16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they malign those of his household.

Have No Fear
26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

Not Peace, but a Sword
34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Rewards
40 “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. 41 The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

Chapter 11
Messengers from John the Baptist
1 When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.

2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

7 As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. 9 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is he of whom it is written,
“‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way before you.’

11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, 14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

16 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,

17  “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”

Woe to Unrepentant Cities
20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

Come to Me, and I Will Give You Rest
25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

  • Translation of Scriptures: English Standard Version (c) 2001-9, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
  • Commentary: (c) 2019, Allen Morris
  • Photo (c) 2016, Allen Morris. Beheading of St John the Baptist. Pierre Puvis de Chavannes. Collection of the Barber Institute.

Living Eucharist: The Church – faithful, and light for the world?

The Gospel yesterday reminded of the need for purification and renewal.

In due course John the Baptist appeared; he preached in the wilderness of Judaea and this was his message: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’ This was the man the prophet Isaiah spoke of when he said:

A voice cries in the wilderness:
Prepare a way for the Lord,
make his paths straight.

This man John wore a garment made of camel-hair with a leather belt round his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judaea and the whole Jordan district made their way to him, and as they were baptised by him in the river Jordan they confessed their sins. But when he saw a number of Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism he said to them, ‘Brood of vipers, who warned you to fly from the retribution that is coming? But if you are repentant, produce the appropriate fruit, and do not presume to tell yourselves, “We have Abraham for our father,” because, I tell you, God can raise children for Abraham from these stones. Even now the axe is laid to the roots of the trees, so that any tree which fails to produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown on the fire. I baptise you in water for repentance, but the one who follows me is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to carry his sandals; he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fan is in his hand; he will clear his threshing-floor and gather his wheat into the barn; but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out.’

Gospel for the 2nd Sunday of Advent
Matthew 3:1-12

The Church knows this need, but is not always courageous in allowing herself to be re-made by God’s Holy Spirit.

Probably we all know this need – certainly we often enough voice our hope for mercy, forgiveness and newness as gift of God… but we too are often cautious in our cooperation with the Spirit that would lead us on the path to holiness.

Although by the power of the Holy Spirit the Church will remain the faithful spouse of her Lord and will never cease to be the sign of salvation on earth, still she is very well aware that among her members,(20) both clerical and lay, some have been unfaithful to the Spirit of God during the course of many centuries; in the present age, too, it does not escape the Church how great a distance lies between the message she offers and the human failings of those to whom the Gospel is entrusted. Whatever be the judgement of history on these defects, we ought to be conscious of them, and struggle against them energetically, lest they inflict harm on spread of the Gospel. The Church also realizes that in working out her relationship with the world she always has great need of the ripening which comes with the experience of the centuries. Led by the Holy Spirit, Mother Church unceasingly exhorts her sons “to purify and renew themselves so that the sign of Christ can shine more brightly on the face of the Church.”(21)

Just as it is in the world’s interest to acknowledge the Church as an historical reality, and to recognize her good influence, so the Church herself knows how richly she has profited by the history and development of humanity.

The experience of past ages, the progress of the sciences, and the treasures hidden in the various forms of human culture, by all of which the nature of man himself is more clearly revealed and new roads to truth are opened, these profit the Church, too. For, from the beginning of her history she has learned to express the message of Christ with the help of the ideas and terminology of various philosophers, and and has tried to clarify it with their wisdom, too. Her purpose has been to adapt the Gospel to the grasp of all as well as to the needs of the learned, insofar as such was appropriate. Indeed this accommodated preaching of the revealed word ought to remain the law of all evangelization. For thus the ability to express Christ’s message in its own way is developed in each nation, and at the same time there is fostered a living exchange between the Church and the diverse cultures of people.(22) To promote such exchange, especially in our days, the Church requires the special help of those who live in the world, are versed in different institutions and specialties, and grasp their innermost significance in the eyes of both believers and unbelievers. With the help of the Holy Spirit, it is the task of the entire People of God, especially pastors and theologians, to hear, distinguish and interpret the many voices of our age, and to judge them in the light of the divine word, so that revealed truth can always be more deeply penetrated, better understood and set forth to greater advantage.

Since the Church has a visible and social structure as a sign of her unity in Christ, she can and ought to be enriched by the development of human social life, not that there is any lack in the constitution given her by Christ, but that she can understand it more penetratingly, express it better, and adjust it more successfully to our times. Moreover, she gratefully understands that in her community life no less than in her individual sons, she receives a variety of helps from men of every rank and condition, for whoever promotes the human community at the family level, culturally, in its economic, social and political dimensions, both nationally and internationally, such a one, according to God’s design, is contributing greatly to the Church as well, to the extent that she depends on things outside herself. Indeed, the Church admits that she has greatly profited and still profits from the antagonism of those who oppose or who persecute her.(23)

While helping the world and receiving many benefits from it, the Church has a single intention: that God’s kingdom may come, and that the salvation of the whole human race may come to pass. For every benefit which the People of God during its earthly pilgrimage can offer to the human family stems from the fact that the Church is “the universal sacrament of salvation”,(24) simultaneously manifesting and exercising the mystery of God’s love.

For God’s Word, by whom all things were made, was Himself made flesh so that as perfect man He might save all men and sum up all things in Himself. The Lord is the goal of human history, the focal point of the longings of history and of civilization, the center of the human race, the joy of every heart and the answer to all its yearnings.(25) He it is Whom the Father raised from the dead, lifted on high and stationed at His right hand, making Him judge of the living and the dead. Enlivened and united in His Spirit, we journey toward the consummation of human history, one which fully accords with the counsel of God’s love: “To reestablish all things in Christ, both those in the heavens and those on the earth” (Eph. 11:10).

The Lord Himself speaks: “Behold I come quickly! And my reward is with me, to render to each one according to his works. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end (Rev. 22:12-13).

Lumen Gentium 43-45 (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World from Vatican II)

  • Where/how do you work to better cooperate with God’s grace?
  • What are the signs of renewal in your parish/community – and how might you encourage them?

Photograph. (c) Allen Morris, 2017. Giotto: Fresco of St Francis supporting the toppling Church.

St. John Baptist. A poem by Thomas Merton

I

When, for the fifteenth year, Tiberius Caesar
Cursed, with his reign, the Roman world,
Sharing the Near-East with a tribe of tetrarchs,
The Word of God was made in far-off province:
Deliverance from the herd of armored cattle,
When, from the desert, John came down to Jordan.

But his prophetic messages
Were worded in a code the scribes were not prepared to understand.
Where, in their lexicons, was written: “Brood of vipers,”
Applied, that is, to them?

“Who is this Lamb, Whose love
Shall fall upon His people like an army:
Who is this Savior, Whose sandal-latchet
This furious Precursor is afraid to loose?”

His words of mercy and of patience shall be flails
Appointed for the separation of the wheat and chaff.
But who shall fear the violence
And crisis of His threshing-floor
Except the envious and selfish heart?
Choose to be chaff, and fear the Winnower,
For then you never will abide His Baptism of Fire and Spirit.
You proud and strong,
You confident in judgment and in understanding,
You who have weighed and measured every sin
And have so clearly analyzed the prophecies
As to be blinded on the day of their fulfillment:
Your might shall crumble and fall down before Him like a wall,
And all the needy and the poor shall enter in,
Pass through your ruins, and possess your kingdom.

This is the day that you shall hear and hate
The voice of His beloved servant.
This is the day your scrutiny shall fear
A terrible and peaceful angel, dressed in skins,
Knowing it is your greedy eyes, not his, that die of hunger.
For God has known and loved him, from his mother’s womb,
Remembering his name, filling his life with grace,
Teaching him prophecy and wisdom,
To burn before the Face of Christ,
Name Him and vanish, like a proclamation.

II

Tell us, Prophet, Whom you met upon the far frontier
At the defended bridge, the guarded outpost.

“I passed the guards and sentries,
Their lances did not stay me, or the gates of spikes

Or the abysses of the empty night.
I walked on darkness

To the place of the appointed meeting:
I took my sealed instructions,
But did not wait
For compliment or for congratulation from my hidden Captain.
Even at my return
I passed unseen beside the stern defenders
In their nests of guns,
And while the spies were trying to decode some secret
In my plain, true name.
I left them like the night wind.”

What did you learn on the wild mountain
When hell came dancing on the noon-day rocks?

“I learned my hands could hold
Rivers of water
And spend them like an everlasting treasure.
I learned to see the waking desert
Smiling to behold me with the springs her ransom,
Open her clear eyes in a miracle of transformation,
And the dry wilderness
Suddenly dressed in meadows,
All garlanded with an embroidery of flowering orchards
Sang with a virgin’s voice,
Descending to her wedding in these waters
With the Prince of Life.
All barrenness and death lie drowned
Here in the fountains He has sanctified,
And the deep harps of Jordan
Play to the contrite world as sweet as heaven.”

But did your eyes buy wrath and imprecation
In the red cinemas of the mirage?

“My eyes did not consult the heat of the horizon:
I did not imitate the spurious intrepidity
Of that mad light full of revenge.
God did not hide me in the desert to instruct my soul
In the fascism of as asp or scorpion.
The sun that burned me to an Arab taught me nothing:
My mind is not in my skin.
I went into the desert to receive
The keys of my deliverance
From image and from concept and from desire.
I learned not wrath but love,
Waiting in darkness for the secret stranger
Who, like an inward fire,
Would try me in the crucibles of His unconquerable Law:
His heat, more searching than the breath of the Simoon,
Separates love from hunger
And peace from satiation,
Burning, destroying all the matrices of anger and revenge.
It is because my love, as strong as steel, is armed against all hate
That those who hate their own lives fear me like a sabre.”

III

St. John, strong Baptist,
Angel before the face of the Messiah
Desert-dweller, knowing the solitudes that lie
Beyond anxiety and doubt,
Eagle whose flight is higher than our atmosphere
Of hesitation and surmise,
You are the first Cistercian and the greatest Trappist:
Never abandon us, your few but faithful children,
For we remember your amazing life,
Where you laid down for us the form and pattern of
Our love for Christ,
Being so close to Him you were His twin.
Oh buy us, by your intercession, in your mighty heaven,
Not your great name, St. John, or ministry,
But oh, your solitude and death:
And most of all, gain us your great command of graces,
Making our poor hands also fountains full of life and wonder
Spending, in endless rivers, to the universe,
Christ, in secret, and His Father, and His sanctifying Spirit.

Acknowledgements

  • Photograph (c) 2015, Allen Morris. John the Baptist by El Greco. Pushkin Museum, Moscow.
  • Text of poem take from the blog: The Value of Sparrows.

Preparing for Mass on the Second Sunday of Advent

First reading:
Isaiah 11:1-10

Seeing Sunday’s first reading in its fuller context reminds that the light of God’s promises shines all the brighter when we acknowledge and recall the darkness of the world into which that light shines…

It also reminds how very particularly this light shines precisely through the election of Israel as God’s peoples. The light is not only for them, but for the nations: it comes to us through God’s saving actions on behalf on his first-chosen people.

Chapter 10
1 Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees,
and the writers who keep writing oppression,
2 to turn aside the needy from justice
and to rob the poor of my people of their right,
that widows may be their spoil,
and that they may make the fatherless their prey!
3 What will you do on the day of punishment,
in the ruin that will come from afar?
To whom will you flee for help,
and where will you leave your wealth?
4 Nothing remains but to crouch among the prisoners
or fall among the slain.
For all this his anger has not turned away,
and his hand is stretched out still.

The Remnant of Israel Will Return
20 In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on him who struck them, but will lean on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. 21 A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. 22 For though your people Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return. Destruction is decreed, overflowing with righteousness. 23 For the Lord GOD of hosts will make a full end, as decreed, in the midst of all the earth.

24 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD of hosts: “O my people, who dwell in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrians when they strike with the rod and lift up their staff against you as the Egyptians did. 25 For in a very little while my fury will come to an end, and my anger will be directed to their destruction. 26 And the LORD of hosts will wield against them a whip, as when he struck Midian at the rock of Oreb. And his staff will be over the sea, and he will lift it as he did in Egypt. 27 And in that day his burden will depart from your shoulder, and his yoke from your neck…

Chapter 11
The Righteous Reign of the Branch

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,
and faithfulness the belt of his loins.
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.
In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.

11 In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that remains of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Cush, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea.
12 He will raise a signal for the nations
and will assemble the banished of Israel,
and gather the dispersed of Judah
from the four corners of the earth.
13 The jealousy of Ephraim shall depart,
and those who harass Judah shall be cut off;
Ephraim shall not be jealous of Judah,
and Judah shall not harass Ephraim.
14 But they shall swoop down on the shoulder of the Philistines in the west,
and together they shall plunder the people of the east.
They shall put out their hand against Edom and Moab,
and the Ammonites shall obey them.
15 And the LORD will utterly destroy
the tongue of the Sea of Egypt,
and will wave his hand over the River
with his scorching breath,
and strike it into seven channels,
and he will lead people across in sandals.
16 And there will be a highway from Assyria
for the remnant that remains of his people,
as there was for Israel
when they came up from the land of Egypt.

The Lord Is My Strength and My Song
12 You will say in that day:
“I will give thanks to you, O LORD,
for though you were angry with me,
your anger turned away,
that you might comfort me.
2 “Behold, God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation.”
3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 4 And you will say in that day:
“Give thanks to the LORD,
call upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples,
proclaim that his name is exalted.
5 “Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously;
let this be made known in all the earth.
6 Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion,
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

Acknowledgements

  • Translation of Scriptures: English Standard Version (c) 2001-9, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
  • Commentary: (c) 2019, Allen Morris
  • Photo (c) 2015, Allen Morris. Isaiah, Frederick Shields. Wolverhampton Art Gallery.