Return to the Second Candle of the Justpeace Advent Wreath

A Meditation on the Lectionary Readings for the Second Sunday of Advent, AD 1998

Readings: Isaiah 11:1-10, Romans 15:4-9, Matthew 3:1-12

So is this the "to dream the impossible dream Sunday reading" or what. Isaiah has gone off into la-la land. "Judging the poor with justice" indeed. When is this going to happen? When have the poor ever been judged with justice? This, in fact, is one of the hard things about poverty -- the unjust judgment that comes upon you because you lack the money, status, and power to defend yourself. The poor are easy pickings. And we all should know how human societies like easy pickings. Why not blame the poor for our problems? What are they gonna do, stop giving us campaign contributions? Hand out fewer golden parachutes to retiring senators?

If the poor must wait for just judgment on the political and economic elites of these world, well, none of us should hold our breaths.

But Isaiah isn't talking about Congress or the World Bank. He is writing of the Messiah, the descendent of the house of Jesse, whose roots shall bring forth blossoms of peace. Counsel and strength are upon him. He does not look at the old shoes or the shabby coat or the gaps in the teeth. He doesn't care about the old car that always breaks down or the lack of designer apparel in the closet. Because he has eyes that can see, ears that hear, and a heart that understands, he can judge the poor with justice. He is the one who decides what is right -- what is justice -- for those who are afflicted in the land.

Unlike the United States government, or the governments of these fifty states, or the International Monetary Fund, the Descendent of David will be clothed in justice and faithfulness. When the going gets rough, he doesn't cut and run and abandon his responsibilities. He doesn't tell lies about the poor to gain political advantage. He doesn't balance his budget on the backs of the poor, while giving the rich extra billions. He is not deaf to the cry of the widow, the orphan, or the defrauded wage earner for justice. He sees the blood of the innocent on the hands of the guilty.

Comes now John the Baptist, speaking to those who are rich, powerful, unjust, and oppressive. Politeness points he does not win. You brood of vipers, he says, who warns you to flee from the coming wrath? Your words are useless, and so is your due process. Where are your actions? What have you done? And as the rich and powerful cry, "But we are the Americans, the Americans", he replies, "Dudes, you are busted. Even now the ax is laid to the root of the tree." The self-image and personal delusions of the rich and powerful, the oppressive and unjust, just doesn't count for much with this guy. He sees where the rubber hits the road.

"For whatever was written previously was written for our instruction, that by endurance and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another, in keeping with Christ Jesus, that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." Romans 15:4-6, the second reading of the Second Sunday of Advent.

Let us pray.

For all in need: the lonely, the sick, the alienated, the rejected, the lost, the fearful. In the Third Millennium, may they find a Church hungry for justice, longing for mercy and filled with compassion. We Pray to the Lord.

For the homeless, refugees, immigrants, and those "with no place to lay their head": In this time, and in every time to come, may those without home find a new welcome; and may we who are the Church "build a house where love can dwell and all can safely live". We Pray to the Lord.

Intercessions prepared by the Diocese of Helena, Office of Worship, Autumn 1996.