Catholic Contemplative Affiliation

Sunday Readings


The Meditation


Second Sunday of Advent; Cycle A, Ddcember 8, 2019

Readings: Isaiah 11.1-10;  Romans 15.4-9;  Matthew 3.1-12

The Desert and John the Baptist
In our Advent journey  in the desert we soon meet Saint John the Baptist.  
To follow the contemplative path you cannot bypass the desert.  The path to the floral surroundings of divine love leads right through the desert.  Before we can gaze upon the beauty of our Beloved, the Word Incarnate, we must encounter the often unsettling man of the desert, John the Baptist.
 John was clothed in a garment of camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist.  Grasshoppers and wild honey were his food (Gospel Reading).
John quite simply informs us that divine union and our moral behavior are related.  We must face courageously the message of the desert that calls for the reform of our lives:
 When John the Baptizer made his appearance as a preacher in the desert of Judea, this was his theme:  “Reform your lives!”  The reign of God is at hand.
Contemplative Practice and Coversion-Reform
In our contemplative practice, divine union awakens a longing for personal reformation.  We come to a point in our prayer that we see our faults and past sins so clearly.   The way we talk and work and how we relate to others become clear to us.  We become aware of the more hidden vices, the ingrained ways in which we inevitably wrap our ego-selves around everything we encounter.  The light of prayer illumines our selfish motivations. 
Reform your lives! 
Yes, Lord, we say YES to Your call to reformation, but only Your redemptive graces can penetrate the layers of our dysfunction to enable us to be changed into Your likeness. 
Creation Awaits Redemption
In Advent we have to realize that we sit in the darkness and the shadow of death. 
The state of our soul only reflects the cosmic chaos.  Advent is about cosmic redemption, the full and last coming of Christ in glory.  Advent is about the final healing of Original Sin, the longing of all of creation for the manifestation of the glory of the children of God (Romans 8:19-21).  We have to learn to wait upon the grace of Christ’s redeeming and transforming love. 
Advent is cosmic in its breadth.  Advent brings us that deep peace that is born of patient waiting upon the Light that will break upon us like the dawn in the rising morning star.
Advent is our quiet gaze upon the persons in the drama of redemption as they take their places on the stage.  Advent is the beginning of the drama and in a paradoxical way, it is its ending. It is the First Act and the Final Act.  We become accustomed to the players and their roles in light of this divine drama.
The Figure of the Prophet Isaiah
Isaiah has already taken his place in the drama.  His role is prominent in the anticipation of our Hebrew ancestors. 
On this Sunday, John the Baptist enters in the scene of his desert setting.  Soon Mary and Joseph will appear.  They in their fidelity to the Word at His coming among us will be the proximate means of the manifestation of Jesus, the Son of God, the Cosmic Savior of the Universe. 
The scene in the first act of the drama is in the desert.  The desert speaks of silence; it speaks of poverty.  It is in poverty of spirit that we receive the Lord.  It is not a glorious oak tree that is the first symbol of the Kingdom of salvation.  It is not a full-grown tree.  It is a stump, insignificant, cut-off, near to death, a poor remnant of something once grand.  God will take to himself the poverty of our human condition like the seemingly lifeless, hopeless stump.  Upon that poor stump will rest the Holy Spirit. 
A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.  The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him (First Reading).
Behold the One Whom We Seek: the Lord Jesus
The poverty of spirit of the desert as an essential ingredient of the Kingdom is shown in John the Baptist and culminates in Jesus’ Gospel.  We must enter into that poverty, that desert poverty, so that we can be reborn into the Kingdom.  The stump in its poverty is the All-powerful One, Christ Jesus. 
I baptize you in water for the sake of reform, but the one who will follow me is more powerful than I.  He it is who will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire (Gospel Reading).
The worldly wisdom of power rules our culture.  The poverty of Christ Jesus judges worldly power and rejects it as a mode of operation. The power of the secular world and the rebellion even of the religious world will ultimately crucify the Lord of Glory in His Poverty.  This alliance of rebellious society and hypocritical religion is judged in Christ’s love.  The judgment of God is upon the world that rejects the Name of Jesus-Savior and is thus rejected by God, the Father and Creator of all reality.  We too are thus judged in as much as we intentionally cling to the world’s standards of power. 
His winnowing fan is in his hand.  He will clear his threshing floor, and gather his grain into the barn, but the chaff he will burn in unquenchable fire (The Gospel Reading).
The Second Reading:The Inseparable Union of Church and True Spirituality
We are gathered into Church.  The Church in its very essence is faithful to the living Word by the infallible power of the Holy Spirit: 
Everything written before our time was written for our instruction, that we might derive hope from the lessons of patience and the words of encouragement in the Scriptures (Second Reading). 
The thread of fidelity to the living Word continues in the apostolic order of the hierarchical Church.  This institutional aspect of the Church is a real and integral part of Christ’s redemption.    Our struggle is against the alliance of the secular culture and the teachers of false, rebellious religion.  Harmony and patience are the virtues of the unity of the Church, the sign of the Kingdom. 
The One Voice of Praise to God
May God, the source of all patience and encouragement, enable you to live in perfect harmony with one another according to the Spirit of Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and voice you may glorify God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Second Reading).
Our contemplative vocation is to keep alive the living, joyful union we experience in the Triune God.  We live the contemplative life in the world.  It may seem lonely in the desert with eyes upon a slowly blossoming stump.   But from the contemplative gaze in faith we experience joy that is the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  Therefore I will praise you among the gentiles and I will sing to your name (First Reading).
At the Liturgy this Sunday, let the lighting of the Advent wreath’s candles symbolize the gradual enlightening of our hearts.  In the Liturgy the Voice of the one crying in the desert claims us more and more for Christ and His Holy Spirit, the Spirit of fire in the desert.  Mary, Mother of God, and St. Joseph, faithful servant of God in the hidden way of daily service, pray for us in this Advent and at the hour of our death, the final advent of our life’s journey.


William Fredrickson, Obl. Secular OSB; D.Min.


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William Frederickson