While we were preparing for Christmas, during the season of Advent, we read a lot from the Prophet Isaiah. On Tuesday of the First Week of Advent, we read from Isaiah 11:1-10. There, the prophet said, “On that day, A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse… Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them… The baby shall play by the cobra’s den … There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain.” At that Mass, the responsorial psalm had the response, “Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace forever.”
What a wonderful world where there will be peace among wild animals, among human beings, between human beings and animals! What a wonderful world. This condition of justice and peace will occur on the day when a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse.
Who is this shoot, and when shall the shoot sprout? The genealogy of Jesus that we read last night from the Gospel according to Matthew reveals that Jesus is the shoot we are talking about. Today’s second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews 1:1-6 identifies us as people of a privileged generation that now have direct access to Jesus the Son of God, the shoot from the stump of Jesse. It means today is the day Isaiah spoke about. That is what we celebrate at Christmas, the birthday of the Son of God.
Remember, the birth of Jesus Christ was a historic event that happened over two thousand years ago. What about the things Isaiah promised would accompany his birth? Where is the peace? Where is the justice? Are wild animals now living peacefully? When we think of what is going on between Russia and Ukraine, can we say the shoot of the stump of Jesse has sprouted? Does the atmosphere in Palestine today reveal that Christ has been born? Think about the various ethnic, religious, and political crises in various parts of Africa; do you see justice and peace? What about the countless senseless gun violence in the United States; do they point to the kind of life Isaiah promised would accompany the coming of the Messiah? Isaiah described how wild animals would live in peace and babies would shepherd them, but today, human beings are not even ready to live together; the rate of divorce brings no comfort.
So, what is happening here? Has the Prince of Peace not been born? Did he forget to bring the peace and justice Isaiah talked about?
While I was raising these questions, I went back to the Book of Genesis to see how God operates. I noticed how he created our first parents, Adam and Eve. He then empowered them to multiply and fill the earth. It was not impossible for God to keep creating human beings directly, but because of his love for us, he empowered us to share in creation by giving us the power of procreation. Today, we can continue this work as procreating and nurturing as biological parents, adopted parents, foster parents, godparents, etc. But God does not impose this responsibility on us.
Similarly, Jesus came to earth for reconciliation. He came to bring justice and peace. After his birth at Christmas, he went about doing good, preaching, teaching, healing, feeding the hungry, etc. He finally gave up his life on the cross that peace may reign between heaven and earth, between divinity and humanity, and among human beings. Like in creation, Jesus invites us to be part of this mission of bringing peace and justice to earth. He did his part. He gave up his throne in heaven and went to the cross. He was humble to the point of accepting on the cross. He now invites us to continue the same project. But he does not impose it on us.
Today is his birthday. The best birthday gift we can give to him is to ensure that all he invested for peace to reign on earth does not go to waste. What are you willing to offer for this peace to reign? If he humbled himself for the sake of this peace, how much of your pride are you willing to give up for the same project? How much discomfort are you willing to accept for this project?
Remember, he will come again. He is taking note of all our contributions to this peace project. He does not impose it on us, but he will reward each of us accordingly.
May the Holy Spirit open our eyes to see all that we need to contribute to this project of Peace, and the grace to do our part so that the second coming of Christ may find us worthy of heaven, through Christ our Lord. Amen