Second Sunday of Advent - Cycle A
December 8, 2013
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First Reading: Isaiah 11:1-10
Second Reading: Romans 15:4-9
Gospel Reading: Matthew 3:1-12
- This Sunday’s gospel reading has the sudden appearance of John the Baptist preaching a message of repentance in the wilderness of Judea. Unlike the early chapters of Luke, this is the first time he is mentioned in Matthew’s gospel.
- As he is baptizing the throngs that flock to hear him, John confronts the religious leaders who come to be baptized by him (verse 7). Recognizing their hypocrisy, he tells them their faith and deeds, like Abraham’s, must match their words (verses 8-9).
- John’s baptism was penitential, meaning that it was a ritual cleansing, an outward sign of interior preparation to meet the anticipated Messiah. This differs from Christian baptism, a sacrament that actually confers grace and cleanses from sin.
- John the Baptist has a twofold mission: to prepare the way for the Messiah, Jesus, and to testify to him when he comes. As we see in the very next verse following our reading (verse 13), Jesus is coming sooner than they think.
- In the 1st Reading from the prophet Isaiah, who is he describing? In practical terms, how is the messianic kingdom described by Isaiah fulfilled, not only in the future, but here and now?
- In verses 8 and 9 of the 2nd Reading, St. Paul states that Jesus came in history for two reasons; what are they? How are those fulfilled in the 1st Reading? The 2nd Reading? How well are they being fulfilled in your life when others recognize you as a Catholic Christian?
- What was John the Baptist like? Why would anyone go out of their way to hear this radical preacher? Who did they think he was (2 Kings 1:8; John 1:19-23)?
- Assume that John the Baptist is speaking to you personally about repenting because “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” What is repentance? What repentance do you think God has in mind for you to do? What is the “kingdom of heaven?” How would you paraphrase John’s message (verse 2) for people today?
- Assume further that John addressed you as one of the “brood of vipers.” How might that figure apply to you? How would you respond to John’s accusation?
- What does this passage say to you as followers of Christ? Are you “comfortable” with its challenges? Where does repentance still need to happen in your life?
Catechism of the Catholic Church: §§ 523-24, 717-20
The Lord has brought condemnation—but against sin, not against man. –St. Augustine
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