A Cycle – 2nd Sunday of Advent 22
Rom. 15: 4-9
St. Jerome said, “ignorance of scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” If that is the measure of our understanding of Christ, then most Catholics would be considered as having no understanding of Christs. But just reading the scriptures is no guarantee of us having an encounter that deepens our understanding of Christ. One can read the bible in one year by buying and reading the “one year bible.” Or a bible study could be followed or by going online if we desire to gain some knowledge of Christ. Or if you just read four chapters of scripture daily, you would read the bible in one year. But reading or studying the bible no guarantee we would “know” Christ.
But if reading the bible is your goal and nothing more than accomplishing that task is the goal then you have missed the point of why God inspired those sacred texts to be written. The scriptures are God’s revelation of himself and in them we discover our own identity as sons and daughters. The goal is not to read them but to experience God in them. You may be wondering why this is important for us as we strive to be faithful disciples and witnesses to our beliefs. There is one line in Paul’s letter to the Romans in today’s second reading that caught my attention, and it gives us a clue to why we need to “encounter” Christ. Without reading the entirety of his letter to the Romans or understanding God’s promise to send us a redeemer we can easily fall into uncertainty about Christ and end up hoping what we believe is true.
Paul said, “…what was written previously was written for our instruction, that by endurance and by the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” I cannot recount the number of times while visiting someone in hospice, or in nursing homes, or in palliative care I have heard individuals say they hope God is merciful. They hope they have done enough to “merit” purgatory, not heaven but purgatory. Is that all the faith we have? Has years of believing, or obeying by sheer willpower, or our striving and trying to be holy left us with only hope in God’s mercy? Why don’t we believe with certainty and trust in God’s promises that the death of Jesus removed the penalty for our sin. If all we have is hope it says underlying that hope is doubt instead of a firm belief in the mercy of God.
If you read only a few more verses in Paul’s letter to the Romans, you will hear him, say, “…now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing that you will abound in hope by the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13). That is a different kind of hope as it is one founded on the action of the Holy Spirit within us convicting us of our worth as sons and daughters. It is more than hope it is an expectation of mercy and a belief in the promise of God made to us. Paul is writing a pagan society providing them a reason on which to base their faith in God not on sacrifices. It is a summary of the covenant made by God to us stating on his part he will restore us to the glory intended for us to have at creation. It is ours because of Christ’s death and resurrection. It is ours if only we believe the Spirit can and will make us holy. Jesus Christ removed the barrier of sin created between us and God by the sin of Adam.
The reason we should read the scriptures to discover the heart of God and to have that discovery reinforced by the words and actions of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to show us the Father and his desires for us. Jesus became flesh to show us the Father not so we would hope and endure but so that we will prevail. Overcome not endure because Christ has won for us the victory over sin and death. We will celebrate Christ coming as a Church, but his coming is individual to each of us.
Read the stories of scripture and yes you will find Jesus speaking to large crowds, feeding multitudes but the stories that should speak to our hearts are his encounter with individuals. Zacchaeus, I am dining at your house today. The woman at the well where Jesus goes out of his way to have an encounter with her, saying, “I have what you want, if only you would ask, and I will give it to you.” To the blind man Bartimaeus, “what do you want me to do for you.” It is interesting how Jesus can sum up on one sentence and probe deep within us to touch that area within us where we need healing. To the man lying by the pool at Bethesda Jesus said, “do you want to be healed.” Of course, he did. He had been ill for thirty eight years and daily had been lying by that pool hoping someone would come by and help him into it when the waters stirred. We need to give voice to our deepest longing by not suppressing it but by knowing and expecting to experience God’s mercy.
We need to be responding the invitation of Christ to open the door and let him enter our hearts (Rev.3:20). We need to respond to the question, “what do you want.” We can change hope into an encounter with Christ by changing hope into a desire to receive what God desperately wants to give us. We need to ask God to send the Spirit to us to transform us into a people who help others discover trust in God never fails if we allow that hope to be the source of our own personal encounter with Jesus Christ.
Come Lord Jesus Come and Be Born in Our Hearts.