The 2nd Sunday of Advent – A – December 4, 2022
Lectionary Readings: Isaiah 11:1-10; Ps.71:1-2.7-8.12-13.17; Romans 15:4-9; Matt. 3:1-12
Theme: Repent and prepare
The call for repentance in today’s gospel reminds me of a favorite song which goes: “Come back to me with all your heart, don’t let fear keep us apart.” The song, written by an American Roman Catholic and at-the-time Benedictine monk Gregory Norbet, is titled “Hosea (Come Back to Me)”; it is based on Hosea 14:1 which says: “Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity”.
John’s call to repent echoes not only that of Hosea but also that of many other prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures who called God’s people to repent. Among the prophets who have urged the people to go away from idolatry and all kinds of sins especially acts of injustice and inequity are Jeremiah (Jer 3:6-4:4), Ezekiel (Ez 18:30-32) and Isaiah (Isa 1:15-31).
According to My Jewish Learning, repentance in the Jewish tradition is called teshuvah, a Hebrew word translated as “returning” especially to the path of righteousness. It is a process which as laid out by Maimonides, includes three stages: confession, regret and a vow not to repeat the misdeed. The true penitent, Maimonides says, is the one who finds himself with the opportunity to commit the same sin again yet declines to do so. As for sin against others, there is a need for restitution. For example, the teshuvah following theft, can only be considered done with the return of the stolen property.
In the Gospel, John also points to the need to acknowledge our sins and to do something special “to bear good fruit.” Unlike the call of the prophets, however, there is a new note of urgency in the call for repentance. It is a “now or never opportunity” for “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
What can the penitent do to bear good fruit? I think the First Reading provides some answers. The “stump from Jesse” which Christians interpret as Jesus Christ, is described as one filled with the spirit of the Lord, who fears the Lord and who walks with justice and faithfulness. And with him, there is harmony and peace among all of God’s animal and human creations. The message is of hope for the coming of righteousness, justice, harmony and peace.
Thus, a Christian’s act of repenting to return to the Lord’s righteousness, among others, will include efforts to promote justice and faithfulness; and to be a peacemaker. This is more easily said than done in a world still having wars, killings and injustices. Still we are full of hope when we sing the closing verses of “Hosea” song: “Long have I waited for your coming, home to me and living deeply our new life.”
For Reflection and Discussion: 1.Recalling what you have recently said and done, of what should you be repenting, if any? And what then do you need to do? 2. How can you help promote justice and peace in your community or wherever you are now?
Bibliography: France, R.T., The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Gospel of Matthew, (Michigan, 2007); https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/repentance/
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Minerva Generalao, Philippines, Bat Kol Alumna July 2014