Brothers and sisters:
Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you,
for the glory of God.
For I say that Christ became a minister of the circumcised
to show God’s truthfulness,
to confirm the promises to the patriarchs,
but so that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.
As it is written:
“Therefore, I will praise you among the Gentiles
and sing praises to your name.”
Matthew 3:1-2, 7-12
John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea
and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees
coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers!
Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.
And do not presume to say to yourselves,
‘We have Abraham as our father.’
For I tell you,
God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.
Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees.
Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit
will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
I am baptizing you with water, for repentance,
but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.
I am not worthy to carry his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand.
He will clear his threshing floor
and gather his wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Today is the second Sunday of Advent, a joyous season of preparation for celebrating the birth of Christ at Christmas.
The readings from Matthew 3 and St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans 15 are a reminder that when the Second Person of the Triune Godhead became incarnate as a vulnerable little baby, born to “nobody” parents in a humble stable instead of a palace, He came for all — Jew and Gentile.
Henceforth, all who pick up their crosses to follow Him, are the self-chosen people — the children of the Light. We who choose to follow Jesus are nothing special. Like Him, we are nobodies with nobody parents, born in humble circumstances instead of palaces. But we choose to follow Him, even though He promises only hardship and persecution:
Then Jesus said to his disciples,
“Whoever wants to be my disciple
must deny themselves
and take up their cross
and follow me.”
In contrast, Jews’ understanding of the term “chosen people” is a narcissistic one — that Jews were and remain “chosen” because they are a superior people, better than the Angels and almost an equal of God. For that matter, in parts of the Talmud — the real Scripture of Jews, which supercedes the Torah (or Old Testament) — the words of rabbis actually supercede God’s. (See Michael Hoffman, Judaism’s Strange Gods.)
It took a Christian-convert Jew to properly present the real meaning of “chosen people”. From Roy H. Schoeman, Salvation is from the Jews: The Role of Judaism in Salvation History from Abraham to the Second Coming (pp. 20-21):
“The Jews were…to host the Incarnation itself, to be the people among whom God would become man. If God were to be on a uniquely intimate basis with the Jews and eventually to become incarnate among them, they would have to be free from involvement with other deities, free from all spiritual pollution. Hence the severity of restrictions in the Old Testament against any form of idolatry or sorcery . . . . This purity, and the development of virtue and piety among at least some of the Jews, would have to reach its ultimate fruition later in producing an individual of such devotion and virtue that she could give her flesh to be the flesh of the God-man, that she could be His human mother. This individual was, of course, the Blessed Virgin Mary.
If redemption through the Messiah, when He came, would require a high level of moral behavior, then mankind would have to be prepared for this higher moral standard, too. Judaism performed this function when it introduced God’s morality to man through the revelation of the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai.
If mankind were to be able to recognize the Messiah for He was when He came, it would have to be prepared by being taught before hand to expect His coming. Judaism performed this role, too….
God wished there would be a people on earth who would worship and adore the Messiah even before He came and who would fervently pray for His coming. This role, too, was fulfilled by the Jews….
Finally, God would need a people to provide a temporal home for the Messiah when He came and to announce His arrival to the world. This, too, was entrusted to the Jews.”
In other words, God didn’t choose the Jews because they were special. Jews became a “chosen people” not because they were specially wonderful and superior to all others, but because God chose them for the Incarnation of His only Son — a role and mission that should be the cause of humility instead of grandiose narcissism.
In Luke 4:24, 28-30 is a description of Jesus’ first public ministry, after spending 40 days and nights in the desert in preparation:
And he said, “Amen, I say to you,
no prophet is accepted in his own native place….”
When the people in the synagogue heard this,
they were all filled with fury.
They rose up, drove him out of the town,
and led him to the brow of the hill
on which their town had been built,
to hurl him down headlong.
But he passed through the midst of them and went away.
What murderous narcissistic rage! — an illustration of what we moderns now call the Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Just remember the “neighbor” in “You shall love neighbor as yourself” includes Jews and Gentiles.
May the joy and peace and love of Jesus Christ, our Lord, be with you!