Cusp-a point of transition, as from one historical period to the next;
the borders between the twelve astrological signs.
You are considered to be "on the cusp" if you were born
within a day or two of the beginning or end of any sign.

The Rocky Mountains, Lander's Peak, 1863; Albert Bierstadt

04 December 2016

Homily for the Second Sunday of Advent A, 4 December 2016


One of the popular symbols of this season is the Christmas tree. There are some who already have one standing in a prominent place at home. The year Louise and I became engaged one of the first things we did was to buy a piece of property near Oak Openings, and one of the first things we did on that property was to plant a row of Colorado Blue Spruce along the right of way of the road. Tiny seedlings we planted. We tended them; brought water from town to keep them safe from the hot dry weather of the following summer. After we built our house and moved in with our family we watched them grow a little taller each year careful not to mow them down until they were large enough to escape that fate.
Fir trees seem to take a long time to grow until at some point they seem to grow by leaps and bounds.  We didn’t realize it, but the trees were now at a more vulnerable stage, they were at the height and shape where they made perfect Christmas trees. When I left for work one dark frosty morning I didn’t notice the damage that had been done in the night, but as I returned home later in the light of day I was shocked and angry at what I saw. Two of the trees had been cut with only the bottom tier of branches remaining.
We had planted these trees to grace the land for years to come, and someone saw fit to cut them for a few days’ pleasure. We related this to a friend of ours who had a Christmas tree farm and he told us to leave the remaining branches. He said the branches will begin to grow upward. Amazingly they did, and in a few years you couldn’t tell what had happened. In a few short years we had seen a cycle of planting, tending, growth, destruction, hope and regrowth.
In scripture, the olive tree is often used as a symbol of Israel. In the first reading we read of a stump of a tree from which a shoot is growing. In particular this stump refers to the fallen line of the kings of Israel and the shoot is the heir of David, the Messiah, the Christ. Isaiah is encouraging the returning exiles to take hope in the Messiah-king who will have all the favor of God and whose reign will be one of justice and peace.
In the Gospel, John is crying out, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy of “one crying out in the desert.” People are flocking to John for his baptism of repentance. They are anticipating the coming of the Messiah foretold by Isaiah.
“As herald of Jesus and the reign of God, John the Baptizer explained by word and example precisely how to prepare a welcome for Jesus. Those who came to hear him speak, in the Judean desert near the Jordan, were told, “[Repent]!” (vs. 2). Reform or repentance indicates that welcoming the reign of God requires a complete conversion. In Hebrew, the word for conversion, shubh, implies that a person has found himself/herself on a wrong path or going in a wrong direction and has made a complete about-face or turnaround in order to return to God. In Greek, the term for conversion is metanoia, which means an absolute change of mind and will.” (Sanchez).
John’s message was about justice, about social change. He challenged the people of Israel to get down to the root causes of problems, to uproot unfruitful trees. The changes that are called for in Advent are fundamental and far-reaching; they are structural. In this new church year, we are challenged to work for a better society, different from the one we now have.
The Christian message relies on the conversion of people which will in turn bring about these changes in society (Medellin Documents).
            How do we repent? How do we prepare the way of the Lord? We do this when we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the stranger and the unwanted child, care for the ill, and love our enemies.
In the Lord’s Prayer we pray “thy kingdom come.” Then the presider says the prayer which ends “as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.” We then receive the Body and Blood of Christ. Jesus comes to us in the Blessed Sacrament, but it does not the end here for we must go and announce the gospel of the Lord and glorify him with our life.
Heavenly Father, fill our hearts with your love so we can help make your kingdom come.

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