THE NOW WORD ON MASS READINGS
for December 8th, 2013
Second Sunday of Advent
Liturgical texts here
“YES, we should love our enemies and pray for their conversions,” she agreed. “But I am angry over those who destroy innocence and goodness.” As I finished up a meal I was sharing with my hosts after a concert in the United States, she looked at me with sorrow in her eyes, “Wouldn’t Christ come running to His Bride who is increasingly abused and crying out?” read: Does He Hear the Cry of the Poor
Perhaps we have the same reaction when we hear today’s Scriptures, which prophesy that when the Messiah comes, He shall “decide aright for the land’s afflicted” and “strike the ruthless” and that “Justice shall flower in his days.” John the Baptist even seems to announce that the “coming wrath” was near. But Jesus has come, and the world seems to go on like it always has with wars and poverty, crime and sin. And so we cry out, “Come Lord Jesus!” Yet, 2000 years have sailed by, and Jesus has not returned. And perhaps, our prayer begins to change to that of the Cross: My God, why have you forsaken us!
Often it seems that God does not exist: all around us we see persistent injustice, evil, indifference and cruelty. —POPE FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium, n. 276
Today, such despair is all around us as atheism is making a new sweep of the world. With each year that passes, the argument continues that the Church is a historical deception, that Scriptures are fabrications, that Jesus never really lived, that we are not God’s children but merely random evolved particles of the “big bang.” And so goes the “Hymn of Pointlessness.”
But this kind of thinking is the product of essentially three things: a misinterpretation of the Scriptures, a lack of intellectual honesty (or desire to face the truth), and a crisis of evangelization. But here, I want to address the first point: what is meant by the above Scriptures, so that as the second reading says, we may go forward “by endurance and by the encouragement of the Scriptures.”
When Jesus began to preach, He proclaimed that “the Kingdom of God is near.” Luke 21:31 The Messiah had arrived. But then, He went on to explain how the Kingdom of God is like a field into which a man sows, and then waits until it grows and is finally harvested. cf. Mark 4:26-29 Jesus was that man who sowed the seed. He also commissioned His Apostles to go forth into the “missionary fields” of the world and sow the Word. This implies that the Kingdom of Heaven is a process of growth. The question is, when is it time for harvest?
First, I would suggest that, just as there are many labour pains according to St. Paul, Rom 8:22 so too there are many “harvests” until the last harvest at the very end of time. The Church will go through seasons of bearing great fruit, of pruning, and even seeming death at times.
But it is also true that in the midst of darkness something new always springs to life and sooner or later produces fruit. On razed land life breaks through, stubbornly yet invincibly. However dark things are, goodness always re-emerges and spreads. Each day in our world beauty is born anew, it rises transformed through the storms of history. Values always tend to reappear under new guises, and human beings have arisen time after time from situations that seemed doomed. Such is the power of the resurrection, and all who evangelize are instruments of that power. —POPE FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium, n. 276
At play here is what St. Paul calls a “mystery kept secret for long ages” but has now been “made known to all nations…” And what is that? “… to bring about the obedience of faith.” Rom 16:25-26 Elsewhere, St. Paul describes this mystery as bringing forth the body of Christ “to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ.” Eph 4:13 What was the full stature of Christ? Complete obedience to the will of the Father. The mystery of Christ, then, is to bring about this obedience of faith in the Bride of Christ before the end of time; to bring about the will of God on earth “as it is in heaven”:
…every day in the prayer of the Our Father we ask the Lord: “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10)…. we recognize that “heaven” is where the will of God is done, and that “earth” becomes “heaven”—i.e., the place of the presence of love, of goodness, of truth and of divine beauty—only if on earth the will of God is done. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, General Audience, February 1st, 2012, Vatican City
Through the seasons of both fecundity and drought, the Holy Spirit has been preparing the Church for this stage of her growth by both tilling the fields of the world, and then seeding it with the Word and watering it with the blood of the martyrs. As such, she not only grows interiorly, but exteriorly as she draws more members into her mystical body. But there is coming a time when the final seeding “until the full number of the Gentiles comes in, and thus all Israel will be saved.” cf. Rom 11:25 will come so as to bear a “mature” harvest:
Christ’s redemptive act did not of itself restore all things, it simply made the work of redemption possible, it began our redemption. Just as all men share in the disobedience of Adam, so all men must share in the obedience of Christ to the Father’s will. Redemption will be complete only when all men share his obedience. —Fr. Walter Ciszek, He Leadeth Me, pg. 116-117; quoted in The Splendor of Creation, Fr. Joseph Iannuzzi, pg. 259
This is why the popes say that Isaiah’s vision of peace and justice on earth before the end of time is not a pipe dream, but is coming! And peace and justice are simply the fruits of living in the Father’s Divine Will. Jesus is coming to bring about the reign of His Kingdom such that the “earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD.” It will not be a state of perfection, “The Church . . . will receive its perfection only in the glory of heaven.” —CCC, n. 769 but of purification in the Church as preparation for, and part of the last days.
Let me conclude then with the words of two popes, and let the reader decide if we are not in fact approaching the days when Christ, with “winnowing fan” in hand, is preparing a great harvest of peace and justice for the Church and the world—the very reason you are being prepared with Your Testimony for The New Missions. For “all who evangelize are instruments” of the power of the Resurrection!
At times we have to listen, much to our regret, to the voices of people who, though burning with zeal, lack a sense of discretion and measure. In this modern age they can see nothing but prevarication and ruin … We feel that we must disagree with those prophets of doom who are always forecasting disaster, as though the end of the world were at hand. In our times, divine Providence is leading us to a new order of human relations which, by human effort and even beyond all expectations, are directed to the fulfilment of God’s superior and inscrutable designs, in which everything, even human setbacks, leads to the greater good of the Church. —BLESSED JOHN XXIII, Address for the Opening of the Second Vatican Council, October 11th, 1962; 4, 2-4: AAS 54 (1962), 789
We are far from the so-called “end of history”, since the conditions for a sustainable and peaceful development have not yet been adequately articulated and realized. —POPE FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium, n. 59
- Understanding the harvest that is coming at the end of this age. Read: The End of the Age
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|read: Does He Hear the Cry of the Poor
|cf. Mark 4:26-29
|“until the full number of the Gentiles comes in, and thus all Israel will be saved.” cf. Rom 11:25
|“The Church . . . will receive its perfection only in the glory of heaven.” —CCC, n. 769