Sunday, December 09, 2007

1st Reading for Sunday, 2nd Week of Advent

From: Isaiah 11:1-10

The New Descendant of David

[1] There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. [2] And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. [3] And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; [4] but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. [5] Righteousness shall be the girdle of his waist, and faithfulness the girdle of his loins. [6] The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the failing together, and a little child shall lead them. [7] The cow and the bear shall feed; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. [8] The sucking child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adders den. [9] They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

The Return of the Exiles

[10] In that day the root of Jesse shall stand as an ensign to the peoples; him shall the nations seek, and his dwellings shall be glorious.


11:1-9. This passage, which is regarded as the third Immanuel oracle, has two parts to it. The first (vv.1-5) announces that the shoot will spring from the stump of Jesse (David's father) at some future date. The second (vv. 6-9) describes the good things associated with his reign, using imagery to do with messianic peace: creation will be restored to its state of original justice.

The first part is a formal announcement of the accession of a new king in the line of David--humble, because he comes from a tree that has been pruned yet has all the vitality of a tender shoot. It refers to a future king ("there shall come ...") and not the reigning monarch. The new king will be endowed with exceptional qualities that equip him to rule, thanks to the Holy Spirit who will descend upon him. The divine Spirit is an inner strength, a gift that God gives to key figures in salvation history to enable them to accomplish a difficult and dangerous mission--Moses (cf. Num 11:17), the judges (cf. 3:10; 6:34) and David (1 Sam 16:13). The new descendent of David will rule over the people not in a heavy-handed way like the kings of the time, but with a charismatic dynamism that comes from God. Six gifts of the Spirit are mentioned, in pairs--wisdom and understanding, referring to the skill and prudence that ensure that he will judge rightly; counsel and fortitude, the characteristics of an astute strategist like David; knowledge and the fear of the Lord, which have to do with the religious sphere, for the king must not forget that he is God's representative.

The second part describes very beautifully the messianic peace that will flower with this new "shoot". It paints a panorama of the harmony that reigned at the dawn of creation, only to be broken by sin. Even among wild beasts violence will disappear. No longer will man in his pride desire to be "like God, knowing good and evil" (Gen 3:5); instead he will be filled with the divine gift of the "knowledge of the Lord" (v. 9). The "child", mentioned twice (vv. 6, 8) is not directly connected with the child-king of the oracle found in 9:6 or with the Immanuel (7:14); however, in the mind of the prophet they must have had many points of contact, given the reference to the child having a leadership role (v. 6).

The image of the "shoot" from the royal line who will bring peace has been interpreted in Christian tradition as finding fulfillment in Jesus Christ. St Thomas Aquinas read this passage as referring to Christ, who brought about the restoration of mankind; he points out: "First, the birth of Christ the 'restorer', is spoken of (v. 1); then, his holiness (vv. 2-9) and his dignity (v. 10) are described" ("Expositio Super lsaiam", 11). And John Paul II comments: "Alluding to the coming of a mysterious personage, which the New Testament revelation will identify with Jesus, Isaiah connects his person and mission with a particular action of the Spirit of God--the Spirit of the Lord.

These are the words of the prophet: 'There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. And "the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him", the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And his delight shall be the fear of the Lord' (Is 11:1-3). This text is important for the whole pneumatology of the Old Testament, because it constitutes a kind of bridge between the ancient biblical concept of 'spirit', understood primarily as a 'charismatic breath of wind', and the 'Spirit' as a per- son and as a gift, a gift for the person. The Messiah of the lineage of David ('from the stump of Jesse') is precisely that person upon whom the Spirit of the Lord 'shall rest.' It is obvious that in this case one cannot yet speak of a revelation of the Paraclete. However, with this veiled reference to the figure of the future Messiah there begins, so to speak, the path towards the full revelation of the Holy Spirit in the unity of the Trinitarian mystery, a mystery which will finally be manifested in the New Covenant" ("Dominum Et Vivifican- tem", 15).

A Christian reading of these words finds in them a reference to the action of the Holy Spirit in souls; the "spirits" that repose in the Messiah; are stable "gifts" through which the Holy Spirit acts. There are six of these gifts, according to the Hebrew text (which the New Vulgate and the RSV follow). The Greek translation of the Septuagint and the Vulgate divide the gift of fear into two--piety and fear of the Lord. That is why catechesis and theology speak of there being seven gifts: "The seven 'gifts' of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of theLord. They belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David (cf. Is 11:1-2). They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations" ("Catechism of the Catholic Church", 1831).
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

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