In his Confessions, St. Augustine cried out in prayer to God, at a point of despair of not being able to follow Jesus Christ fully and give up his concubine. He heard a child’s voice saying, “Take and read.” He opened St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans 13:13-14 and read “Let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness…but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Scripture gave him the will to overcome his sexual addiction and follow Christ, eventually becoming the Bishop of Hippo and one of the greatest Fathers of the Church.
Our Old Testament reading from Isaiah is mirrored and fulfilled in Jesus Christ in Matthew 11. The Jews in 8th C BCE had rejected the words of God from Isaiah and thus had suffered the death of many, the loss of the Jerusalem temple, and captivity in Babylon. God only taught what was good and true to his people because he wanted their prosperity and flourishing.
In the beginning of Matthew 11, our gospel reading for today, Jesus has finished instructing the Twelve and is going to teach and proclaim his message in the cities: “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven has come near.”(Mt 4:17) Today’s Gospel follow Jesus’ paean of praise for John the Baptist, “the messenger” sent before the LORD to prepare the way. (Mal 3:1) Then echoing Isaiah 48:16 “Draw near to me and hear this,” Jesus says, “Let anyone with ears listen!” (Mt 11:15)
Just as the 8th C BCE Jews had rejected God and been sent into the Babylonian captivity, the Jews of Jesus’ time rejected John’s message declaring that he was possessed by a demon. (Mt 11:18) They also rejected Jesus because they said that he was a “friend of tax collectors and sinners, a glutton and a drunkard.” (Mt 11:19) The incarnate God of Israel, Jesus, rebuked his audience again for not listening and repenting. Jesus, (the Wisdom of God,) would be vindicated by his teaching, miracles of healing and ultimately, on the cross by his sacrifice for the sins of many. Lifted up on the cross, the Lamb of God would draw all men to himself in this supreme act of love.
Listen to God in Scripture
The “wisdom” of Psalm 1 provides an alternate path to the way of the wicked, the sinners and scoffers. This path for the righteous man is one of ‘lectio divina.’ The law of the LORD is his joy; and on his law (Torah/instruction/teaching) does he meditate day and night. (Psm 1:2) The wise man draws near continuously to listen to God in Scripture. He studies it, meditates upon it, prays it, and acts upon the Word. He acknowledges: “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psm 119:105) He does this not only to maintain a relationship with God, as a good tree near Living water, but to be able to share the fruits of his contemplation with a world that thirsts for a Teacher and a Savior, Jesus Christ. The righteous are like trees planted near streams of running water, with evergreen leaves bearing fruit in all seasons.
REFLECT: During this Advent season meditate on our responsorial psalm antiphon: “Those who follow you LORD will have the light of life.” (Jn 8:12)