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Thursday – Third Week – Advent
Readings: Isa 54:1-10; Lk 7:24-30.
First Reading (Isa 54:1-10):
NAB Isaiah 54:1 Raise a glad cry, you barren one who did not bear, break forth in jubilant song, you who were not in labor, For more numerous are the children of the deserted wife than the children of her who has a husband, says the LORD. 2 Enlarge the space for your tent, spread out your tent cloths unsparingly; lengthen your ropes and make firm your stakes. 3 For you shall spread abroad to the right and to the left; Your descendants shall dispossess the nations and shall people the desolate cities. 4 Fear not, you shall not be put to shame; you need not blush, for you shall not be disgraced. The shame of your youth you shall forget, the reproach of your widowhood shall no longer remember. 5 For he who has become your husband is your Maker; his name is the LORD of hosts; Your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, called God of all the earth. 6 The LORD calls you back, like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, A wife married in youth and then cast off, says your God. 7 For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great tenderness I will take you back. 8 In an outburst of wrath, for a moment I hid my face from you; But with enduring love I take pity on you, says the LORD, your redeemer. 9 This is for me like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah should never again deluge the earth; So I have sworn not to be angry with you, or to rebuke you. 10 Though the mountains leave their place and the hills be shaken, My love shall never leave you nor my covenant of peace be shaken, says the LORD, who has mercy on you.
Gospel (Lk 7:24-30):
24 When the messengers of John had left, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John. “What did you go out to the desert to see– a reed swayed by the wind? 25 Then what did you go out to see? Someone dressed in fine garments? Those who dress luxuriously and live sumptuously are found in royal palaces. 26 Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 27 This is the one about whom Scripture says: ‘Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, he will prepare your way before you.’ 28 I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” 29 (All the people who listened, including the tax collectors, and who were baptized with the baptism of John, acknowledged the righteousness of God; 30 but the Pharisees and scholars of the law, who were not baptized by him, rejected the plan of God for themselves.)
I. THEME: Recognize and respond to God’s love.
God loves people so much, and He expects them to respond to His love to live happily with Him. In fact, people don’t always respond to God’s love, they run after love that doesn’t bring them happiness. That’s why God must discipline people so that they could recognize what is the true love and come back to Him. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah wanted to show the Jews the faithful love of God so that they would repent. In the Gospel, John the Baptist prepares the hearts of the people and shows them the way to Jesus. Many people and the tax collectors recognized their sins and repented in order to be forgiven; but some of the scribes and elders remained stubborn in their sins.
1/ First Reading: “The mountain has changed, my love for you have not changed.”
1.1/ People realized their betrayals and returned to God: Today Isaiah’s narrative is in the last chapters of the Second Book of Isaiah, when the people of Israel were living in exile. The prophet’s mission is to make people recognizing their sins and betrayals, while also presenting God’s mercy and faithful love. They lost their country and Temple because they were chasing gods who couldn’t save them. They were suffered and humiliated because they have abandoned the Law of God to pursue the passion of lust and the attractions of the world.
However, they still have hope to return to God’s love because He is the God of mercy, and his love is forever enduring. If they are determined to return, God will make up for all their losses and give them happiness than before. The Prophet Isaiah affirmed with people: “5 For he who has become your husband is your Maker; his name is the LORD of hosts; Your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, called God of all the earth.”
1.2/ God must punish so that man may not perish: True and faithful love does not think of permanent expulsion but emphasizes repentance to resume the original love. God’s love for man is eternal love, not temporary love. He wants to love and to live happily with people for the rest of their life. Because he loves people so much, He doesn’t want them to be perished; therefore, if he does not punish people, He will lose them forever. God shows His faithful love when He disciplines people. In exile, some people realized God’s true love, they repented for leaving God to worship other gods, and now they want to return to Him.
When they returned repentantly, God immediately forgave and resumed the original love with them as expressed by Isaiah: “7 For a brief moment, I abandoned you, but with great tenderness I will take you back. 8 In an outburst of wrath, for a moment I hid my face from you; But with enduring love I take pity on you, says the LORD, your redeemer.”
2/ Gospel: God sent John to prepare the people’s hearts to receive the Messiah.
2.1/ The greatness of John the Baptist: Waiting for John’s disciples to leave, Jesus begins to tell the crowd about John: What do you go to see in the wilderness?
– “A reed swayed by the wind?” John was not a reed swayed by the wind, but an ancient tree or a solid rock that was unshakable. John Baptist’s faith can be compared with Elijah’s faith in God, that was so strong that even though all people ran after Baal on Mount Carmen, he alone proved that it was a mistake and they needed to return to the real God. John’s faith in Christ was so strong that he was willing to sacrifice his life to prepare people to be ready to receive Him and showed them when He appeared. He eventually died to testify to the truth.
– “Someone dressed in fine garments? Those who dress luxuriously and live sumptuously are found in royal palaces.” John, on the other hand, was a very simple man who did not depend as much on material things as his contemporaries. Therefore, he had plenty of time to carry out the mission which God entrusted him to.
– “A prophet? That’s right; I tell you: this is more than a prophet!” Out of humility, John refuses to claim to be a prophet when was questioned by those sent by the Sanhedrin Council from Jerusalem; but he did the work of a prophet in the Old Testament. Now he is given the noble task of preparing the way for the Messiah to come by preparing the hearts of people to welcome Him.
Jesus praised John the Baptist: “27 This is the one about whom Scripture says: ‘Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, he will prepare your way before you.’” These words are the words in the Book of Exodus 23:20 with a few modifications: “Here I sent a messenger before you, to protect you on the road and take you where I have prepared.” And he publicly praised John in front of everyone: “28 I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” Of course, John also belonged to the Kingdom of God because his whole life was ready to die for it. What Jesus wants to emphasize here is the importance of entering the Kingdom of God, not any glory of this world can be compared with it.
2.2/ The result of John’s preaching: Two completely opposite results are given by Jesus:
(1) Many people, including the tax collectors, recognize God as the Righteous and have been baptized by him. This is the kind of people who doesn’t know much about the Law, and tax-collectors are regarded as public sinners; but they humbly admitted their ignorance and sins. Since John’s preaching penetrated their hearts, they desire their sins to be forgiven and saved by God.
(2) The Pharisees and the scribes rejected God’s will for them and did not receive John’s baptism. This is the class of people who have a lot of opportunities to know God because they hold the Law; but instead of letting the words of the Law and the Prophets shining and leading their way, they let outward profits blind them, making them jealous when they saw the whole people abandon them and run to John. They did not recognize him as the prophet Elijah, whom they have always expected him to come to clear the way for the Messiah. Moreover, because of their arrogance, they also will not recognize the Messiah they have always expected, and the Law mentioned, is standing before them.
APPLICATIONS IN LIFE:
– To live happily, we must respond to God’s true and faithful love. Otherwise, we must pay the price for betrayal and unfaithful.
– Out of love, God must punish, but He also gives us many opportunities for repentance and returning. Let us not be hardened but know to take given opportunities to return and to respond to God’s love.