2nd Sunday of Advent - Year A - 2013
I’m not sure if you know this but before I came to St. Paul I spent a month living and praying in a trappist Monastery.
Trappists are a very strict religious community dedicated to a life of prayer and contemplation.
They don't’ talk.
They don’t eat meat,
and they get up at 2 AM pray and study.
Some of you are probably wondering to yourselves…
Fr. Robert what were you thinking ?
It was a wonderful experience but I have to admit I was not perfect at it.
Beside talking when I wasn’t supposed to after three weeks of vegetables one day I got into my car drove into town and bought a double cheeseburger with bacon.
Of course I felt bad so when I told the Abbot what I had done he smiled and said I guess you were made to be a Franciscan not a Trappist.
Along a pond at the monastery there was this very long beautiful row of trees they were in a perfect row equally spaced all the same size. It was very impressive.
One day I asked the guest master about the trees and he responded
A shoot shall blossom from the stump of Jesse
I didn’t understand what he was talking about so he went on to explain.
Many years ago that was a beautiful big old tree which the monks enjoyed.
It was very large and gave lots of shade. There was a bench underneath it and it was a great place sit in the shade and look over the valley and pray.
Then one year after an ice storm they had to cut it down.
Everyone of them was sad because they loved the tree and they loved that spot..
After it was cut down one of the monk cut several of the branches and placed them in the ground as fence posts.
To their surprise after a few months everyone of the posts began to sprout and with a lot of trimming and care that whole row of trees grew from the fence posts cut from the old tree.
A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse
Everyone of us has had dark moments, moments when hope or even the possibility of hope seems far away.
Maybe you've endured the pain of a broken marriage or the death of a loved one.
Maybe you’ve run into financial troubles or lost your home a lot of people have.
Maybe you’ve become estranged with a family member or your kid is really struggling and can’t seem to find happiness.
Maybe your family has moved away and you live alone and are lonely waiting for someone to call..
Maybe you just can’t forgive someone and move on.
The list goes on and on and on…
Yes sometimes life seems like a dead stump.
In the first reading the Prophet Isaiah is describing the terrible time in which he lived.
During his youth Israel was affluent but then fell to the Assyrians. Many of the Israelites were taken away in exile.
In other words it went from a flourishing tree to what appeared to be a dead stump.
Judah the northern kingdom later became the pawn of foreign powers.
And even with all the compromises they had made with their neighbors
they too had fallen on very hard times.
All appeared lost there seemed to be no reason to hope.
Yet the prophet Isaiah refused to give up and under God’s inspiration he dared to prophesied that even though the stump of Israel and Judah seemed dead a shoot would sprout and life would return.
Many say this simple phrase was prophecy of the Messiah which would be fulfilled in Jesus
Isaiah’s prophecy called his contemporaries to hope, hope in God and God’s love
Pope Benedict once wrote
Hope is more than just the belief that things will get better.
Hope is the conviction that we are loved and cherished by God
And If we understand that we are loved and cherished by God even for one moment, our lives will never be the same.
No matter what challenge we face no matter how dead the tree seems.
The readings on this second Sunday of Advent call us to hope
Hope without ceasing
If we are loved by God..
What can touch us ?
What can harm us ?
What should we fear ?
What can we fear ?
Even in our darkest moments let us dare to hope that shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse.