Littleness as a Sign of God’s Presence 2nd Sunday of Advent A

Littleness as a Sign of God’s Presence 2nd Sunday of Advent A

Isaiah 11:1-10, Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17, Romans 15:4-9, Matthew 3:1-12

            On this second Sunday of Advent may we remember that Advent is a penitential season in a similar way that Lent is a penitential season that prepares us for Easter Sunday. During the penitential season of Advent, we are encouraged by the Church to devote more time to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving in order to be prepared to welcome the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day.

            During this penitential season may we open our minds, and hearts to hear God revealing Himself to us. One primary way that God reveals himself is through the grandeur of the created world that surrounds us. For those who have seen the awesome power of Niagara Falls, or the majestic mountains of the Cascade Mountains in West, you may have heard God speak to you through these great, awe inspiring wonders of nature. An experience of the majestic beauty of the Cascade Mountain range helped to cause the famous scientist, Francis S. Collins, who was struggling with faith to, he writes, kneel “in the dewy grass as the sun rose and surrender[] to Jesus Christ.”[1] According to Collins, he surrendered to Jesus Christ and believed in Jesus after he “rounded a corner” while “hiking in the Cascade Mountains” “and saw a beautiful and unexpected frozen waterfall, hundreds of feet high”.[2]

            A theologian in commenting on the grandeur and splendor of nature points out that there is another way that God chooses to reveal Himself. Often God reveals himself in what is little, and not what is immediately spectacular, for example in the gentle breeze that the prophet Elijah heard God through when Elijah was on Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:12), or in the small grain of wheat, or very tiny mustard seed that Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to.[3]

            If we turn our attention to today’s gospel passage where we encounter John the Baptist we can, observes the theologian, understand John the Baptist as representing God through images of great power, such as a powerful axe that cuts down might trees, or a destructive fire that quickly burns whatever is in its path.

            Then, however, we meet Jesus, we meet Jesus who is meek and humble of heart, who not only is a strong Shepherd but also identifies with the sheep as a seemingly defenseless Lamb of God. We meet Jesus who, points out the theologian, fulfills the prophet Isaiah’s prophecy of a divine servant who does not “break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick (Is 42:3; Mt 12:20)”.[4]

            So often, though, many of us want a Jesus who is more like the Cascade Mountains, more like the power Niagara Falls, more like a destructive fire, and yet on Christmas day we will encounter Jesus in the form of a little baby, who has no apparent ability to defend Himself, who is born in the poor, hidden town of Bethlehem and in a cave, where lowly animals were kept. This infant baby Jesus, reminds the theologian, reveals to us God’s nature more than John the Baptist’s severity; the little baby Jesus reveals to us God’s nature better than John the Baptist’s images of axe, and an unquenchable, destructive fire.[5]

Lord Jesus, today you will soon be coming to us hidden under the lowly appearance of a little piece bread, under the appearance of a consecrated host that bears your true presence. May the reception of your divine life in the Eucharist teach us the value of your humble, merciful love. May we recognize God’s voice speaking to us not only through the majestic and powerful but also, and more often, through the lowly, and small.

God Bless – Fr Peter

John Everett Millais [Public domain], “Christ in the House of His Parents by John Everett Millais, 1849–50,” https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John_Everett_Millais_-_Christ_in_the_House_of_His_Parents_(%60The_Carpenter%27s_Shop%27)_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg


[1] Francis S. Collins, A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief: The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (New York: Free Press, 2006), 225.

[2] Francis S. Collins, A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief: The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (New York: Free Press, 2006), 225.

[3] Benedict XVI, Dogma and Preaching: Applying Christian Doctrine to Daily Life, trans. Michael J. Miller (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011), 343.

[4] Benedict XVI, Dogma and Preaching: Applying Christian Doctrine to Daily Life, trans. Michael J. Miller (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011), 343.

[5] Benedict XVI, Dogma and Preaching: Applying Christian Doctrine to Daily Life, trans. Michael J. Miller (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011), 342.

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