The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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December 7, 2001 Issue
Fr. Ver Bust's Column:
"Explaining the Gospel"

Fr. Richard Ver Bust
Fr. Richard Ver Bust

We must live the words of the scripture

The scriptures provide words of encouragement on our long journey

December 9, 2001, Second Sunday of Advent

By Fr. Richard Ver Bust

The reading from the prophet Isaiah tells of a new creation. Filled with hope, it describes a time in which the original story of creation in Genesis 2:4 to the end of the chapter is recreated. The animals, which are at peace in the Garden of Eden, once more are in harmony. Yet it is not simply going back to origins but a new and even more wonderful creation.

This new creation will be achieved by a new Davidic king. The house of Jesse, the father of King David, will provide that descendent. The spirit of the Lord will be with him. That spirit will give him gifts that will help him achieve the vision that Isaiah foretells. With these gifts he will bring justice to the people and protect those who are poor and meek. He will have the qualities of righteousness and faithfulness, gifts that God possesses in abundance, but which God will share with this new and wonderful king.

The vision of a new earth is one in which God will rule. Peace and justice will be gifts that God will bring to those who accept the covenant. A kingdom of peace, meaning the abundance of all that is good, will show the whole world the wonders of this God. This is important for this universal theme is one in which the blessings given to Israel are now given to all people.

The responsorial psalm reemphasizes this theme. The psalm prays that God will endow the king with the gifts necessary to achieve the goal. Like God, this king will be the protector of the poor and weak. Again the psalmist prays that all the nations of the world may know these blessings. And in experiencing these blessings, all people will joyfully accept the reign of God.

Paul and John the Baptist point out what we must do in cooperating with God's command. Paul emphasizes that we must not only hear the words of scripture but also live by them. For Paul, scripture was the First or Old Testament. For us it is also the Second or New Testament. The scriptures will give us words of encouragement that we may endure our long journey. The scripture tells us of the covenant that the Lord has made with people. The promises God has made to the patriarchs are made to us as well. Paul believes that they have also now been extended to the Gentiles which means all people. The patriarchs and the descendants of King David have been the means through which God has touched Israel and all the world.

Finally John the Baptist emerges as the great figure of Advent. He teaches Israel and us that our response to God must be repentance. This means a complete change of attitude and life. The reason is that God is bringing about the kingdom that Isaiah foresaw. There is immediacy to this call.

The clothing, the food, and the message of John point to a new prophet. He is dressed for life in the desert and he consumes the food of the desert.

John challenges people to accept his message and to indicate their willingness to follow him by being baptized. It was to be a sign that the individual accepted the reign of God and would repent. Matthew tells us that many heard his message and were baptized. He criticizes the Pharisees and Sadducees and points to their unfaithfulness to the covenant. John predicts that there will be judgement on those who do not repent and redemption for those that do.

(Fr. Ver Bust holds the title of professor emeritus in religious studies at St. Norbert College, De Pere.)

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