Sunday, December 9, 2012

Devotion for today: Second Sunday in Advent: put on the robe of righteousness

FIRST READING: Baruch 5: 1-9. Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, 0 Jerusalem, and put on for ever the beauty of the glory from God. Put on the robe of the righteousness from God; put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting. For God will show your splendor everywhere under heaven. For your name will for ever be called by God, "Peace of righteousness and glory of godliness." Arise, 0 Jerusalem, stand upon the height and look toward the east, and see your children gathered from west and east, at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that God has remembered them. For they went forth from you on foot, led away by their enemies; but God will bring them back to you, carried in glory, as on a royal throne. For God has ordered that every high mountain and the everlasting hills be made low and the valleys filled up, to make level ground, so that Israel may walk safely in the glory of God. The woods and every fragrant tree have shaded Israel at God's command. For God will lead Israel with joy, in the light of his glory, with the mercy and righteousness that come from him.

The section read today is a poem full of hope and encouragement. The days of mourning are over---Jerusalem and Israel will be glorious once more and will be recognized by the whole world as God's chosen abode. It is evident that something much more than the return of the Jews from the Babylonian exile (in 538 B.C.) is meant here. It is the New Jerusalem and the new Chosen People the writer has in mind, hence its insertion in the Advent readings.
Jerusalem . . . beauty of the glory: Jerusalem stands for the citizens of the new kingdom of God, a kingdom that will have the beauty and glory of God forever, the messianic kingdom namely.
robe . . . righteousness: Uprightness and integrity towards God and towards their fellow-men will be the distinguishing mark of the new Chosen People.
glory of the Everlasting: "Sacred to Yahweh" were the words inscribed on the miter of the High Priest in the Old Law---this will now be the inscription on the head of the new citizens of Jerusalem---they will all be consecrated to God.
God will show . . . your splendor: The New Jerusalem will be the capital of the whole world, "all the earth" will know of it. Peace of righteousness . . . glory: Jerusalem was interpreted as city of peace---now it will be a city of true peace founded on justice, the only true basis for peace, and the true worship of God (as opposed to the so often empty external ritual of the old Jerusalem) will be carried out in it forever.
look to the East . . . and the West: The citizens of the New Jerusalem will come from the whole world "east and west." The new kingdom will not be restricted to the children of Abraham but will embrace the whole human race as was foretold to Abraham (Gen. 12: 3 etc.).
rejoicing . . . remembered them: As the Jews of Jerusalem had gone into exile (in Babylon) because of their sins, so the Gentiles had been for centuries exiles from God because of their sins, but as he brought back the Jews from Babylon so now will he bring back the Gentiles from their long exile to the New Jerusalem, to his messianic kingdom. He had not forgotten them but remembered them when the "fullness of time had come."
went forth . . . on foot . . . royal throne: This refers primarily to the Babylonian exiles but it refers especially to the recalled Gentiles who will be not only citizens of the new Jerusalem but princes "on royal thrones," sons of God namely.
every high mountain . . . low: The way will be made smooth and easy for their return (see Is. 40: 3-5; Mt. 3: 3).
woods . . . and tree: To make the return easy for the exiles, God will cause forests to grow to shade them from the burning desert sun.
God will lead Israel: This recall of Jew and Gentile to the new kingdom is the gratuitous gift of God. "God loved us . . . when we were dead through our sins, be brought us to life with Christ" (Eph. 2: 4ff).
his mercy and righteousness . . . him: Through his infinite mercy God forgives men's sins and through his justice, his fidelity to himself, he has fulfilled the promise he made to Abraham to "bless" all nations notwithstanding our total unworthiness.


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