Advent’s challenge: Coming to God each day and not just at the end of time

Father R. Michael Schaab

Living the Word l Father R. Michael Schaab

Second Sunday of Advent l Dec. 4

Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72:1-2,7-8,12-13,17; Romans 15:4-9; Matthew 3:1-12

Advent comes from two Latin words that mean “to come to.” They are applied in two different ways — God comes to us and we come to God. These applications have different dimensions, and today’s readings express these dimensions in beautiful and symbolic language.

In order to achieve the Advent of coming to God in our daily lives, we have to respond to others as Jesus has shown us. We must rescue the afflicted, have pity on the lowly and save the poor.

The first dimension of God coming to us is the historical dimension. Isaiah refers to this when he speaks of “the stump of Jesse.” Jesse was the father of King David and his family tree was reduced to a stump due to the unfaithfulness of Israel. The shoot that comes from that stump will be the new King of the Jews, Jesus Christ, for God is always faithful to his people even when they are not faithful to God.

But the coming of Christ is not only something of the past, it is also in the present. Matthew’s Gospel reminds us that many of those to whom Jesus came more than 2,000 years ago first went out to John to be baptized in the Jordan. To this very day, when believers are baptized they receive the Spirit of the Lord as described by Isaiah. It is a Spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, fear of the Lord and delight in the fear of the Lord. This is what John means in the Gospel when he says, “I am baptizing you with water. . . . He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” In the sacraments of our initiation, in baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist, we continue to receive these same Gifts of the Spirit in this contemporary dimension of Advent in which God continues to come to us.


The Scriptures often use symbolic language to express that dimension of this liturgical season that is our coming to God. John the Baptist speaks of the Savior as a farmer at harvest time. “His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn.” We are God’s wheat and heaven is the barn we are gathered into in that final Advent — Christ’s second coming.

The last dimension, and the most challenging part of Advent, is how we come to God, not at the end of time in Christ’s second coming, but each day in our lives here on earth. John the Baptist warns us to “produce good fruit,” and Isaiah uses beautiful language to describe this fruit when he says the wolf shall be guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid. We are to come to God through working for peace and harmony with one another. That’s what the Letter to the Romans refers to when it states “may God . . . grant you to think in harmony with one another.”

But how is peace achieved? How are we to come to God through the Advent of working for harmony among people? Isaiah hints at the answer when he says that the shoot that sprouts from the root of Jesse shall judge the poor with justice. God’s justice is more like the human idea of mercy, and if we have any doubts about its meaning we have the Responsorial Psalm. Taken from Psalm 72, the responsory uses the word “peace” six times and the word “justice” or “judgment” 10 times.

St. Pope Paul VI comes to mind. He said, “If you want peace, work for justice.” In order to achieve the Advent of coming to God in our daily lives, we have to respond to others as Jesus has shown us. We must rescue the afflicted, have pity on the lowly and save the poor. We have to work for peace and justice.

FATHER R. MICHAEL SCHAAB is a senior priest of the Diocese of Peoria who gives retreats and days of recollection, and fills in as presider at parish Masses on weekends. He resides on a hobby farm in Putnam County.

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