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Reflection for the Second Sunday of Advent
Reflection for the Second Sunday of Advent, Cycle A - December 8, 2019
Readings: Isaiah 11:1-10
Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17;
By Sr. Agatha Muggli ``
John the Baptist appeared, preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” Jesus began his preaching with, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has drawn near.” (Mt 3:1; 4:17.) Repent implies a change of heart;it shows in bearing good fruit; it flowers in justice or integrity. John’s baptism by water symbolized this change of heart; Jesus’ baptism in the Holy Spirit and fire accomplishes it. Commentators say that, in calling for repentance, both John and Jesus are focusing on morality, on what moves a person to act.
Some of us in this community professed stability, obedience and conversio morum, conversion of morals, or, sometimes translated, conversion of manners. Those were the days before critical study of Benedict’s Rule. Today we know that Benedict used conversatio morum which is translated fidelity to the monastic way of life. While I recognize and proclaim this, I’m going to revert to the earlier terminology in this reflection and play on the phrase conversion of morals or manners.
The change of heart urged by John and Jesus implies, in the Jewish understanding, that something is taking place at the core of the person, at the source of one’s willing, at the root of one’s power to love. We know from Genesis and Paul that God breathed God’s Spirit into our heart, our core, making us living beings, offspring of Abba, Father. We also see in the Scriptures the unfolding story of our turning away from God by hardness of heart and deeds of dissension and discord (Eucharistic Prayers of Reconciliation). How might we return to the original harmony of creation intended by God and proclaimed by Isaiah in such amazing images as the peaceful cohabitation of wolf and lamb, cow and bear and the harmlessness of cobra and viper? I would answer, by a change of heart, by a conversion of morals, a conversion of manners guided by the Gospel.
According to Isaiah, not by appearance shall we judge, nor by hearsay shall we decide (Is11:3). Rather, we ought to be the first to show respect to the other (RB 72:4). Daily we can go against the tide of our TV and social media culture and treat every person in the same reverent, welcoming, friendly way that Christ treats us (Rom 15:7).
The psalmist suggests that we can allow our judgements to be endowed by God so that they benefit the other rather than self (Ps 72:1; RB 72: 7). Daily we can counteract the stance of “what’s in it for me” and choose to go out of our way to attend to the needs of another or to defer to their preferences whether in large or small matters.
We can, as Scripture urges us, let integrity, truthfulness be the belt around our waist (Is 11:5; Eph 6:14) which enables us to strive earnestly to listen to the other. Daily we can restrain our inclination to presume we know it all and give the other space to share their point of view and, in our turn, offer a positive comment, ask a leading question or humbly declare our position.
In these days, as followers of Christ and of Benedict, we have been immersed in the Spirit by virtue of our baptism. We pray you, O Christ, for the grace of your fire to purify our hearts, to convert our morals, to reform our manners so that, from our heart, from the root of our being, we can each shoot forth the buds and bear the fruits of the kingdom of heaven. And thus, we shall be signals beaming the power and presence of God to the nations. Glory be to you, God, for your grace, your Spirit energizing from inside out.