|The Second Sunday in Advent|
HOMILY FOR THE SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT 2013, The Reverend Ricardo Frohmader, Associate Minister. Those of you who were here last Sunday will have recognized in today’s readings a continuation of the themes of radical hopefulness coupled with warnings about a coming Day of Judgment that are a part of the Advent Season. The ambiguity of Advent, torn as it is between the expectation of the Apocalypse and the End time and the celebration of the Incarnation of God as Man, continues in today’s readings. The hope for a world of Edenic peacefulness contrasts with John the Baptist’s warnings to Pharisees and Sadducees whom he likens to a brood of vipers. The hope of a just King ruling righteously contrasts with the vivid images of imminent judgment from John the Baptist. In the reading from Isaiah 11 we have the declaration that the Savior who is to come will be “a shoot from the stump of Jesse”. What does this mean? Who is this Jesse? Jesse is the father of David, the second king of Israel, whose descendants are meant according to 2 Samuel chapters 23-24 to rule forever over the nation. In other words the prophet expects a descendant of David to come to save Israel. The family of Jesse was based in Bethlehem, and it was there that the prophet Samuel anointed the young David as king over Israel. So a branch from the stump of Jesse is a descendant of his and of King David. That Jesus is that promised new branch from the root of Jesse was proclaimed early on. The Gospel according to Matthew, Chapter 1 and the Gospel according to Luke, Chapter 3, purport to show how Jesus is descended from Jesse, and from King David.We find Saint Paul quoting Isaiah in today’s reading from Romans 15 saying about Jesus Christ: “The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles shall hope”. That proclamation by Saint Paul of a Davidic Jesus may well antedate the ones in either of the two Gospels mentioned. The reading from Isaiah describes in wondrous words a natural order in which there is no death. The child can play without feararound the dwelling of the cobra and the viper. Wolves, lambs, kid goats, leopards, calves and lions live together peaceably. There is no nature red in fang and claw. Death is no longer a part of the natural order. And the bears and the lions have gone vegan. This is Eden restored, our Paradise lost. It is a vision that has inspired artists and poets for centuries. This is the new order that will come with the hoped for Messiah. The Messiah or King of today’s Psalm brings good governance, something sorely lacking in our unhappy and conflict-riven world. The needy and poor are rescued from their oppressor, there is justice for the poor, and the righteous flourish. Would that things were so. The Messiah who will set things right is yet to come. Jesus came says Saint Paul to bring salvation to the Gentiles, to make us children of Abraham, children of the promise. By his death he also reconciled us with God. And in this Advent time we look for his coming again in glory, to fulfill the promises spoken in the Prophet Isaiah, and Psalm 72. John the Baptist too is looking for that Messiah who will come to judge the just and the wicked-“every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire”. Regarding the Messiah who comes after him he says: “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear the threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary: but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” John is an apocalyptic voice, and his message for the religious and political establishment of his time is blunt: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham”. Indeed Jesus through his mission brings the Gentiles into the family so that they become children of Abraham. So we begin the second week in Advent. The promise of a just reign and a peaceable kingdom is still only a promise. But we are invited to concern ourselves with the poor and the needy, and to pursue the need for justice in the society we live in. Are we condemned to listen to Isaiah’s promises and sigh in longing only, or are we invited to help bring about a better world, in which there is justice and more equity? Can’t be done say the weary among us, but look at what Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk achieved in South Africa. Twenty-five years ago South Africa was poised for a blood bath. Four million whites ruled over almost forty million people. The majority Africans were confined to reservations, unless they had job in the section reserved for whites. The white area of South Africa was 87% of the land mass. The black majority had 13% of mostly second or third rate land. Guerilla activity was a growing threat as South Africa became increasingly isolated and surrounded by unfriendly independent countries. In their desperation the South Africans built an atomic bomb, and possibly tested it in the southernmost Indian Ocean. Now who were they going to use the bomb against? Consider it a sign of their desperation in trying to defend the indefensible. Think also how close they might have been to unleashing a nuclear war as their strange world collapsed. Into this scenario of gathering doom came F.W. de Klerk as the President and head of the white, Afrikaner-dominated National Party. De Klerk released Nelson Mandela from prison, where he had been for 27 years. Prior to his imprisonment, Mandela had been organizing armed resistance to the apartheid system that so cruelly deprived the vast majority of inhabitants of their most elemental rights. But a spirit of reconciliation, like the one that Archbishop Welby said in August should be one of our main witnesses in this world, had entered into these two men who should have been implacable and bitter enemies. De Klerk and Mandela entered into negotiations. As a result the apartheid system was dismantled. The black reservations were reincorporated into South Africa. The principle of one person one vote was accepted, and free and fair elections were held. The African national Congress won a large majority, and Nelson Mandela became the first black president of South Africa. F.W. de Klerk was one of the vice-presidents. A privileged minority gave up power to a deprived majority. The transfer was largely peaceful and democratic, and the country remains so to this day. It has its problems, but nothing like those before the reconciliation brought about by de Klerk and Mandela. De Klerk said not long ago:"When Mandela goes it will be a moment when all South Africans put away their political differences, will take hands, and will together honour maybe the biggest known South African that has ever lived”. That is Mandela’s legacy to his country. Mandela’s great virtue lies in the fact that in victory he was gracious and gentle with his opponents, when he could have been vindictive and tyrannical. De Klerk also deserves recognition for having brought his white minority people to their senses, and for having done a good job of negotiating their surrender to black majority rule. So we say to those who live in gloom and doubt: “Yes it is possible to bring about a fairer, freer, more equitable world that more closely resembles God’s kingdom”. We need to reach out in reconciliation to those who share our aspirations for a world that is more just, especially here in Guatemala. And we need the vision of Isaiah’s proclamation and the Psalmists verses to guide us on that pathway. May God Bless us and keep us as we remember his Incarnation, and await His coming in Advent.
St. Alban´s Mission, Antigua, meets every Sunday at the Casa Convento Concepcion at 12:00 noon. Holy Eucharist is celebrated.
*St Alban´s, Antigua, Guatemala is a special mission project of St. James English speaking parish at the Cathedral of Santiago, Guatemala City.
The Most Reverend Armando Guerra Soria, Bishop of Guatemala and Primate IARCA The Reverend Ricardo Frohmader, Associate Minister.