Separating the Wheat from the Chaff in our lives will bring us Harmony within ourselves, with others and with God

Homily for the Second Sunday of Advent Year A

by Fr. Tommy Lane

We desire peace and harmony between all people. We desire an end to all war and strife and misunderstanding. Much of what we see on TV does not please us because it focuses on violence and the brokenness of human nature and does not uplift us but poisons our mind with negativity. The consequences of the sin of Adam affect the lives of all us in various ways. Brokenness has been passed down to every single human from Adam in original sin. We are aware of brokenness in our own lives and in the lives of others. The brokenness in our own lives

  • affects ourselves as we do not always choose what is right or good,

  • affects those we come into contact with since none of us is yet the perfect image of God that we are meant to be

  • and affects our relationship with God by distracting us from putting God first at all times.

The brokenness in others affects themselves, their relationship with God and also affects us. We long for peace and healing and harmony. We are all familiar with the spirit of Advent because in a sense we have Advent longing all our lives as we long for God to restore everything to the way it is meant to be.

In our first reading we heard Isaiah’s beautiful prophecy of a return to harmony among the animals,

Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest; the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord, as water covers the sea. (Isa 11:6-7,9)

It reminds us of the beautiful prophecy we heard last Sunday from Isaiah about a return to harmony among humans also,

They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks;
One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. (Isa 2:4)

Both last Sunday’s prophecy and today’s also tell us how these prophecies will be fulfilled; the whole world will turn to God. That is how these prophecies of peace will be fulfilled, by turning to God again. In today’s reading we are told, “the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord.” (Isa 11:9) Jesus will be the one who will make all this peace and harmony possible and heal all brokenness when the whole world will turn to him. We could see Jesus as the “root of Jesse” who will accomplish all this.

On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious. (Isa 11:10)

Jesus is this sign that has been set up for the entire world. Jesus lives in the Church now and we are Gentiles, so our first reading is fulfilled in our lives as we have found Jesus in his glorious dwelling, the Church,

On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious. (Isa 11:10)

We have crucifixes in our churches and on the walls of our homes. Jesus is indeed the signal set up for the nations.

The peace promised in Jesus and that we long for is something that must begin in our own hearts. It is something that we must work for. We cannot leave it all to God. Peace occurs when we make decisions that lead towards peace. So even though we have found Jesus in his glorious dwelling, the Church, because of the consequences of the sin of Adam and the brokenness we all share we each have much work to do in our lives. Therefore the words of John the Baptist in our Gospel today are words that we want to make our own also,

Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. (Matt 3:8)

By producing good fruit through repentance we will be bringing peace to ourselves, to others and healing our relationship with God. Repentance and good fruit is a grace from God so let us pray this Advent that we may receive the grace from God to produce the good fruit of repentance and bring peace. If we do not, there is a warning from John the Baptist in our Gospel when he describes Jesus cleansing humanity by separating good from evil.

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. (Matt 3:12)

A winnowing fan was a hand held instrument used to throw wheat up in the air and the wind would blow away the light weight chaff and leave only the heavier wheat which would fall down. Because of the brokenness passed on to us from the original sin of Adam we each have chaff in our lives, chaff that

  • affects ourselves as we do not always choose what is right or good,

  • affects those we come into contact with since none of us is yet the perfect image of God that we are meant to be

  • and affects our relationship with God by distracting us from putting God first at all times.

This Advent through prayer and repentance may we produce good fruit and separate the chaff from the wheat in our lives. Then we can truly live Paul’s advice and prayer for the Romans in our second reading,

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another, in keeping with Christ Jesus, that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Rom 15:5-7)

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered in a parish in Maryland near where I have joined the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

More homilies for the Second Sunday of Advent Year A

What chaff do we need to remove to become pure wheat before Jesus? 2010

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Something new in the Judean desert and Advent has new graces for us 2011

First Reading The Joyful Expectation of Advent