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Bring the stable to the world

Mary Jo Tully
Chancellor, Archdiocese of Portland

Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013
Second Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 11:1-10
Romans 15:4-9
Matthew 3:1-12

Today’s Gospel reminds me of the colorful characters God chooses to bring his message to the world to this day. The Hebrew Scriptures are filled with God using stuttering shepherds, those who would seem too young and those who would seem too old to carry his message. Today, for instance, John the Baptist sounds a bit more like someone I might encounter in a dark alley than he does as someone proclaiming the coming of the Messiah. But in his time John was extraordinarily popular with the people. In him, they saw the prophecy of Isaiah fulfilled.

All four Evangelists connect John the Baptist with this passage in Isaiah: “Prepare the way of the Lord” (Is. 40:3). In a sense, that is the meaning of Advent and the meaning of our lives. Ours is truly a God of surprise and the biggest of these, perhaps, is a cute little baby with whom we are surprisingly comfortable. We might easily wonder about this choice. He did not come as a king. He did not come as a warrior. Instead, the Messiah came as a poor and vulnerable baby born of a young Jewish maiden in a lowly stable.

Left to ourselves and the world that surrounds us, we would have been satisfied with the comfort zone that the celebration of Christmas provides. That would have been enough for us. But God’s plan for the world was to embrace us and to change us. The task is not over. In his Church, he has chosen us — more unlikely than John the Baptist and more unworthy than Peter — to prepare the way for the coming of the Kingdom

In the midst of this, there is the message of Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium. Pope Francis reminds us of the pervasive joy of the Gospel. This is the story that begins with God who loves us and wraps his message in the joy of a child’s birth. This child lives in us and our Advent celebration brings to mind the message in a new way. The child for whom we prepare speaks of that joy in a way all of us can hear. It is the context for what it means to be God’s people.

Ours is not the Kingdom simply because we are Catholic any more than John’s listeners could count on being Abraham’s children for their own salvation. Pope Francis’ exhortation reminds us that we are called to bring the Gospel to the world.

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