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December 8, 2019: The Second Sunday of Advent - Associate Pastor’s Corner

If I told you that there will be a day that there will be peace in the Holy Land, that our country will have 100% employment--and indeed, we are joyfully employed--and housing is affordable, you would very likely say I’m either delusional or I’m running for office.  

Yet, this is the vision of our first reading. This is from Isaiah, chapter 11, also known as the Peaceable Mountain.  This is a vision that displays a time and place where sworn, mortal enemies are sharing a joy-filled life with each other.  Lambs invite wolves to have dinner with them.  Leopards share a cup of tea with young goats.  Children, young lions, and calves decide to play on the mountainside.  If we think of this image critically, it’s crazy, if not inane.  At the very least, it is irrational that a predator would share tea with his prey (except, of course, if you were living in Narnia).  

Yet, as with all images that the Prophet Isaiah speaks, we are to put our knowledge of biology and animal behaviors and contemplate what is being spoken.  Sworn enemies are sharing a meal.  Social dynamics that seem impossible to overcome are, in fact, being scaled with success.  What is deemed impossible is made possible.  

In other words, the Prophet Isaiah is speaking about HOPE.  Hope is that radical refusal to believe that God is too small for anything.  Whether it be peace between family members, justice at work, peace in Hong Kong, or the end of abortion, the theological virtue of hope is an ardent desire that God’s will may reign in any and all situations, places, and hearts.  Nothing is too big, nothing is too small, for the love and power of our God to penetrate.  God doesn’t think anything is too small for His love to influence; God doesn’t think that there is a situation is too big for Him to overcome. 

It makes sense, then, that the symbol of Hope is the anchor.  An anchor tethers a boat to where it needs to be.  It keeps a boat steadfast and stable.  Just so, hope keeps our lives with Christ steadfast and stable, a reminder of who is in control and why.  

How do we keep a spirit of Hope? What can we do, in a concrete way, that allows us to recognize that I am a hope-filled Christian? The first half today’s reading tells us everything we need to know.  This blossom that buds from “the stump of Jesse” is obviously Jesus, yet the gifts that descend upon Jesus descend upon each of us baptized who have received the Sacrament of Confirmation.  The spirit of Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and the Awe towards God.  The same gift, the Holy Spirit, that descended upon Jesus to complete His mission on earth descends upon each of those who receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.  

Yet, just as on Christmas morning, when we not only receive our gifts, we have to unwrap and open the boxes.  For many of us, it’s safe to say that we have received the 7-fold gift of the Holy Spirit, but we have yet to open the box!  Advent, can be that time where we spiritual unpack the 7-fold gift, and learn how to be wise, how to understand the mysteries of God, how to give and receive counsel, how to have intimate knowledge of God’s will in my life, an authentic relationship with God (also known as piety) and a deep understanding of how awesome our God is.  When we have that balanced life of prayer, corporal and spiritual acts of mercy, and living a life where we gift each other a break and radiate the Lord’s charity, then can we be another christ for our world.  

And it is then, at that moment, when we are living that 7-fold gift, we can be a son or daughter of HOPE, living a life where we radically refuse to believe that God is too small for anything.

~ Fr. Isaiah Mary

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