Bringing Home the Word

2ND SUNDAY OF ADVENT December 9, 2007

Roots Aren’t Enough
By Diane M. Houdek
Prophets are gifted with an intense personal awareness of God's love for his people. Their call both inspires and compels them to preach this word to those who will listen — and to those who close their ears. From the time a prophet hears the word of God, the burning desire is to find the words that will express this eternal message to the people of one time and place. The Word of God was spoken to John, son of Zechariah, in the desert, and John knew that the old order would have to pass away. Having prepared himself not through temple observances but through desert fasts and prayers, he comes out of the deserts preaching reform and conversion. The kingdom of God was at hand. The great prophets of the Hebrew scriptures may struggle with their call to be prophet, but they never deny the word of the Lord. John the Baptist, the man Jesus spoke of as the greatest of the prophets, knew the desire of the prophet to tell people of the love of God. But the call to be prophet is makes demands, asking one to risk everything for the word. John became a voice in the wilderness, a man totally focused on his call and God's message. In his desert fasts and struggles he must have known the experience of being alone with only the whisper of God's word in his heart. Yet this whisper clamors to be proclaimed and we must come forth from our desert silence. John found his message” “Prepare the way of the Lord. The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Repent and believe the good news.” John was rooted in the message of the Hebrew prophets, but he was being called to proclaim something completely new. Roots aren’t enough. We need to grow and bear fruit. Winter can lull us into a state of resting, of waiting for spring to energize us. A group of Pharisees and Sadducees come to John the Baptist relying on their status as sons of Abraham. But John tells them that the ax is at the root of trees that aren’t producing fruit. The Gospel gives us a vivid image of dead wood and chaff being burned while the fruit and grain are gathered into barns to nourish and sustain life. Roots provide valuable nourishment. They make life possible. But if they’re too constrained, they can inhibit the very growth they’re designed to nourish. Isaiah’s well-known vision of nature in harmony calls us to imagine sworn enemies sharing food and shelter, frolicking as companions. And the prophet neither minimizes the distinctions nor emphasizes the nearly unreachable idealism of the vision. Jesus said, “Love your enemies.” He didn’t say, “Your enemies will become your friends and then you will find it easy to love them.” Often our rootedness in one way of life or one set of attitudes keeps us from reaching out to those who are different, those we have avoided out of fear and hatred. To be fruitful, we must be open to this sort of newness. Paul tells us Jesus fulfilled the covenant of the Jews and brought a vision of God’s mercy to the Gentiles. Paul’s gifts unite the dreams of these two groups into one vision of Christianity. He doesn’t destroy healthy differences, he doesn’t deny individual roots. He sees the possibility for communion. Advent is a time of vision, the vision of a shared future among all people as we grow beyond our rootedness.

SUNDAY READINGS
Is 11:1-10
A prophet looks ahead to the reign of a new king. In his day the kingdom will bring to mind the Garden of Eden.

Rom 15:4-9
Paul proclaims the value of the Scriptures.

Mt 3:1-12
John the Baptist prepares the way of the Lord.

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REFLECTION QUESTIONS NOITCELFER SNOITSEUQ

About what attitudes have we become complacent? How do the Scriptures challenge us to expand these attitudes?

THE HOME CHURCH
By Jeanne Hunt

Who are your personal prophets, those who have spoken for God in your life?

Like John the Baptist, what are we willing to risk for the sake of the Word? Isaiah and John the Baptist, the prophets of this Sunday, share one thing in common: No one hears them with a sense of urgency. We casually let the words float above our Advent heads with little impact. John is shouting “Prepare the way!’ Isaiah is proclaimed across church microphones saying, “a new shoot will grow…” and we think,” Oh, that’s nice.” The radical message of conversion offered by these two voices is not something to listen to politely until we can get back to our holiday activities. Both saints mean to stop us in our tracks and call us to be aware that something is changing… right now… right here. We are told to go home and live in expectation. John wants us to create a place in our lives for the Christ, who wants to be welcomed into family prayer, Advent reconciliation services and even into the way we spend our holiday cash. Isaiah wants us to know that something new is about to happen. Change is in the air and every family should throw away their old agenda and embrace a new way of being Catholic this Advent and Christmas. Are we going to really listen or is business as usual this Advent at your house?

O saints of old, Isaiah and John, We want you to tone it down a little. It seems you are shouting too loud for our comfort. Oh! You say that’s the point. We are suppose to be uncomfortable preparing for Jesus. Pray that your words change our hearts like never before. Amen.

PRAYER

The intercessory prayers of the Church are a beautiful expression of our connection with each other, the universal church, the world and its leaders, the poor, the sick and the dying. Listen carefully on Sunday to the intercessions at your parish liturgy. Savor each one instead of responding automatically with “Lord, hear our prayer.” Notice whether one in particular strikes a chord with you. Write it down at the end of Mass and begin each day of this second week of Advent by praying it with special care.

N OOCON ECTIONOO O O
Create a John the Baptist desert with your children. Fill a dish with sand, a few rocks, some twigs and a few bones. Create a sign for your desert that says “One comes after me whose sandals I am not fit to untie.” Let it be a visual reminder of the Baptist’s role in preparing his followers—and us— for the coming of the Lamb of God.

Join the Conversation!
Visit the Bringing Home the Word blog (http://bhtw.wordpress.com) to share your experience of making the Word part of your everyday lives and to comment on what you’ve read here.

WEEKDAY READINGS
the Word
December 9, 2007

Monday Is 35:1-10/Lk 5:17-26 Tuesday Is 40:1-11/Mt 18:12-14 Wednesday Zec 2:14-17/Lk 1:26-47 Our Lady of Guadalupe

Thursday Is 41:13-20/Mt 11:11-15 Lucy Friday Is 48:17-19/Mt 11:16-19 John of the Cross Saturday Sir 48:1-4, 9-11/Mt 17:9a, 10-13

Bringing Home

Editor: Diane M. Houdek; Art Director: Michael Winegardner; Illustrations by Julie Lonneman For licensing information, call 1-800-488-0488 or visit www.BringingHometheWord.org. Copyright © 2007, St. Anthony Messenger Press, 28 W. Liberty St., Cincinnati, OH 45202. All rights reserved. Print duplication rights granted only to license holder.