Breaking Open the Word
By James Cavanagh
Dec. 5: The Second Sunday of Advent
People were terrified and had doubts that God would protect the kingdom that he promised would last forever (2 Sm 7:16). Isaiah assures them that David’s line will survive, despite the menace at their doorstep. Judah will be cut down like a tree, but from its “stump” David’s heir, “the root of Jesse” will appear. He will embody all the qualities of the ideal king, fulfilling Israel’s hopes and dreams.
Isaiah’s prophesy was finally realized in Jesus. What we call the Old Testament was called the “Scriptures” in the New Testament as the New Testament had not yet been codified.
This week’s second reading is a good example. Paul explains how Christ is the fulfillment of God’s promises in the Scriptures. Illumined by Christ, the Old Testament can now be seen for what it is: a book of hope and encouragement.
On the second and third Sundays of Advent the Gospel reading features John the Baptist who was called by God to prepare the people for the Messiah, in accordance with the Scriptures (Mal 4:5; Mt 17:12-13). It might seem a little odd that we would hear about John the Baptist right before Christmas since he doesn’t point to Christ’s birth.
John heralds the advent of Christ who comes not just as a baby, but as the long-awaited Messiah-King and “redeemer of all men.” John’s pronouncement about the kingdom of heaven inspired great hope. But his words also contained a warning. He echoes Isaiah’s prophesy when he says: “Already the ax is laid at the root of the tree! Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire!”
“Catechism of the Catholic Church”:
Pope Benedict XVI:
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. For information on subscribing to "Breaking Open the Word, click here. For archives click here.