What do you think about our first reading from the Prophet Isaiah (11:1-10)? We might be so used to the Bible’s flowery way of talking, even to the exaggerations scattered here and there throughout this wonderful, divinely inspired book that we might not be impressed or struck in the depth of our heart by some pages opened before our eyes or proclaimed to our ears.
In those cases, perhaps, it might not even cross our mind that it is God Himself who is trying to talk to us personally and directly. Perhaps, we fail to pick up the relevance of the message for our daily life and for our specific, personal situation. Alas, this is a mistake that we might make over and over again.
In a very poetic form, the reading describes for us God’s dream about creating a new world that would be free of devastation, grief, divisions, strife, tears and death. This dream is about a world better than the original one that He had created at the beginning with the Garden of Eden in it, before sin ruined everything.
Now, if we put today’s three readings (Isaiah 11:10; Romans 15:4-9; Matthew 3:1-12) side by side by side, we would get a pretty clear picture of our God’s true intentions. It is a picture almost flaunted before our eyes as “a divine dare.”
As if God were to say to us: “Whether you like it or not; whether I can count on your cooperation or not, I, your God, have decided to create for myself a new world in which all nations and all peoples will be gathered to form my universal and global family.
I, your God, have made up my mind about easing all your pain, dressing every single one of your wounds and drying, one by one, the tears in your eyes.
I, your God, will not stop until all nations will be firmly in my embrace of infinite love.
And, in order to assure you that I am quite determined to go through with all this, don’t forget that I prepared a body just like yours for my Son who came among you on that first Christmas.
Finally, let me give you the ultimate, the most definitive evidence one can possibly ask for to prove that I will go all the way: I let my Son poured out all his blood on the cross. That action reveals the totality, the finality, the decisiveness, the irrevocability of my love for you and for the whole world. And, don’t forget that the resurrection of my Son from death proves that I will succeed fully. Nothing or no one can thwart my plan, my dream for unity, cooperation, fellowship, solidarity, justice and peace.”
This is basically God’s plan; and, today, He speaks to us in a resounding way through His spokesmen Paul and John the Baptist.
Paul is so possessed by God’s love that he can endure acute pain, hardships, discomforts, even harsh persecution so that God’s dream may come to fruition. To this end, in his Letter to the Romans (15:4-9) he invites us to stifle our personal arrogance in order to get directly involved in contributing to the completion of God’s dream.
And it is God himself who, through Paul, is asking us to set aside our personal differences in order to achieve harmonious unity of thought and intent within the Church so that we may give Him much glory by our obedient service. Obviously the apex of cooperation and unanimity should be evident at Mass, around the table of the Word and of the Sacrament.
Turning now to the Gospel passage (Matthew 3:1-12), we meet God’s other spokesperson, John the Baptist. John is a unique, intense, consumed-by-zeal man. He is a man ready for any sacrifice so that God’s plan of universal salvation may triumph. Such a heroic disposition draws people to look for him in the harshness of the desert.
So it is in the desert that we, too, along with many others, realize that we cannot afford to ignore God’s message, overlook His invitation and refuse to do what He asks of us. Through John’s mouth, God is basically asking three things of us.
1) Not to be presumptuous. Not to presume that since we are Catholics, perhaps from birth; since we attend church every Sunday; since we do not hurt anyone, everything is fine and in order; and that God must be pleased with us. The Lord is expecting much more. He expects a life totally dedicated to genuine love and generous service of our neighbor.
2) The Lord orders us to convert, to return to Him. The day we would stop grieving over our sins because we would have pushed them somewhere down into the remote areas of the heart, we would be in the most serious trouble of our life.
3) Lastly, the Lord wants us to bear good fruits of charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity and fidelity.
As we can plainly see, then, our preparation for Christmas is exactly the opposite of what the world out there suggests. Just look at what is advertized through the media. Just consider what the world proposes to make us happy and successful and ask ourselves if any of that gave us enduring happiness; if any of that is consistent with the spirit of the Gospel.
God’s Word today calls for us to devote all our energies, according to our calling in life, to the fulfillment of God’s dream and the establishment of His Kingdom. On the day of His coming in glory, on the day in which the Lord Jesus will have achieved the fullness of glory also in His members (all of us), everyone will know the extent of our contribution to God’s dream and, consequently, the quality of our preparation.