Thursday of the Second Week of Advent
(Isaiah 41:13-20; Matthew 11:11-15)
The venerable teacher had the peculiarity of calling his students “pinheads.” The adolescents under his tutelage, however, did not take offense. Indeed, they perked up at the appellation to pay greater attention to the lesson. So the people of Israel respond to Isaiah as he calls them “worm” and “maggot” in the first reading. The prophet’s message certainly merits attention. God will rescue them from their captivity. Their way home will not be torturous but pleasant. Rather than straining beneath the desert sun, they will walk blithely under the shade of trees and drink from wayside pools.
Early in the Gospel of Matthew, John the Baptist hurls similar insults as the prophet Isaiah. “Brood of vipers” he calls the Pharisees and Sadducees who seek him out in another desert. The people attend to his word because they recognize John as a true prophet. But for all its truth his message still falls short of the full revelation of the Kingdom of heaven because it lacks a dimension of God’s Fatherly love. This is why Jesus says that the least in the Kingdom – the tiniest one who comes to know the grace of the Kingdom -- is greater than the mighty Baptist.
Also a prophet, Jesus not only talks about God’s love but demonstrates it with powerful acts of mercy. Today we see similar preaching backed by deeds in the activities of many churches. One community of faith not only gives the poor an elegant weekly dinner but sponsors an annual concert featuring Handel’s “Messiah” so that the larger civic community might come together and be lifted up in the Lord’s name.