Most of us, I think, fail to recognize just how radical the gospel really is. Now, this word radical has 2 meanings. First, we speak of something as radical because it is so new and startling.
The gospel really is news. We call it Good News, but we usually focus on how it is good, not so much on how it is new. Perhaps this is one of the built-in problems of living 2000 years since the birth of Christ. We miss just how amazing this news really is. Every year as we contemplate the mystery of Christmas, the birth of the son of God into human history, it should amaze us, for we would have done things differently. Jesus is the prince of the cosmos, but he is born in a stable. He is the word through whom was made the universe, and he was born as a child, unable to speak. Wisdom itself, grew in knowledge and experience. The great savior was heralded by a humble man preaching repentance, dressed not in costly vestments but camel hair. One thing I think that we all should do during Advent is to spend some time with these Bible stories. Advent is a time for us to join in the long preparation for the coming of the savior. Try to put yourselves in the shoes of the pre-Christian people. Try to regain an appreciation for just how radical this good news is.
Also, the word radical applies in another way. The word radical comes from the latin word radix which means root. The coming of Christ gets to the very roots of humanity and society. We hear about this in our readings today.
First, Isaiah paints for us an interesting picture. He describes a human person, but a perfected human person. This person is filled with wisdom and knowledge, vested in justice and righteousness. We often apply this prophecy of Isaiah to the person of Jesus. In the person of Christ we see the human person healed to its very roots. In Jesus, humanity regains wisdom, knowledge, justice, and righteousness. Because of our common humanity, all of the human race is elevated and healed at the coming of Jesus. This gets to the very core of our nature. The incarnation is radical in the fact that it goes to the root of the human person. As we take an honest look at ourselves during this season of Advent, we might see within ourselves many shortcomings and faults. Ask Christ into the very core of your being. Let him enter you to your very roots and let him heal you.
Many times in our readings we hear about the nations or the Gentiles: the root of Jesse will be a signal for all the nations and because of Christ even the Gentiles might glorify God. The coming of Christ is radical because it heals not only the brokenness of the human person, but even the brokenness of the human family. Because of the coming of Christ, all nations have access to the God of the universe. This is a new and radical concept. Remember, that God chose the people of Israel. God chose Abraham and Moses. Yet, in Christ, all of us have become God's sons and daughters. In Christ, God chooses the whole world. The divisions that exist among us can be erased through common faith in Christ. Isaiah speaks of an ideal future where natural discord is vanquished, where the lamb and the lion lie down together. We might think that this is impossible, but this has already happened in the Church. In the body of Christ there many different peoples. There are Christians from every tribe and nationality, peoples who have historically been enemies share in the same faith, the same baptism. And, if we are honest we could all do a better job of putting behind our differences and focusing on our communion with Christ.
How does this radical communion take place? How does Jesus heal us to our roots both personally and as a human family? Isaiah says that the root of Jesse will be held up as a signal to all the nations. Jesus is the root of Jesse, and he was lifted up on the cross to draw all nations to himself. He is lifted up again here on this altar drawing all of us to himself. At every Mass we lift the Lord and we all gaze upon him is, and he becomes the source of our communion. As we await the coming of our savior we look upon him here in this Eucharist. We ask him to come into our lives. Allow Christ to heal us to our very roots and ask him to help heal any divisions we face in our lives, so that we too might glorify God for his mercy.