Tuesday of the First Week of Advent

Tuesday of the First Week of Advent
Isaiah 11:1-10  +  Luke 10:21-24
December 1, 2020

The root of Jesse, / set up as a signal for the nations, /The Gentiles shall seek out ….

Today’s First Reading is taken from the eleventh chapter of Isaiah, the prophet of Advent.  In this rich passage of only ten verses, Isaiah foretells:  the coming of the Messiah, the gifts with which this Messiah is anointed; and the extent of this Messiah’s kingdom upon earth.

Isaiah describes the Messiah who is to come in earthly (in fact, earthy) terms.  At the start of today’s First Reading we hear that “a bud shall blossom” from the roots of Jesse.  This Jesse, of course, is the father of King David, who himself was the greatly earthly king in Israel’s history.  Yet a greater king lay in Israel’s future.  David would be surpassed in glory by one of his own descendants.

The glory of this future king is connected to the gifts described in the next verses of Isaiah 11.  “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon” the blossom of Jesse’s roots.  This Spirit, who of course is the Holy Spirit, bears manifold gifts, including wisdom and understanding, counsel and strength, knowledge, and fear of the Lord.  The Messiah to come—the glorious successor of King David—not only bears these gifts but wills to extend them to the members of His Kingdom.

But who will populate this Kingdom?  To what ends will this kingdom extend?  Isaiah uses imagery from the animal kingdom to illustrate how the Messiah will reconcile those who seem natural enemies:  the wolf and the lamb, and the cow and the bear.  This imagery helps us understand the final verse of the First Reading.  “The Gentiles shall seek out” the “root of Jesse,” which will be “set up as a signal for the nations”.  Already on this third day of Advent, the Church points our attention to her celebration of Epiphany, which itself foreshadows the great feast of Pentecost.