Dear brothers and sisters,

He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

(Matthew 3:11)

 

          Our Lord speaks to us through Matthew’s gospel. Matthew is a Jew who believes that all of the Old Testament promises and anticipation that is perfectly summarized in today’s first reading from Isaiah, is now fulfilled in the Person of Jesus Christ.

          Matthew will help us this liturgical year to appreciate the Israelite’s longing for justice and peace in the reign of an ideal king down through the centuries. Their longing for that perfect king was never fully realized in all the king-descendants of David.

          Matthew will help us realize that the longing the people of Israel had for that anointed King, that Messiah (from the hebrew for anointed), that Christ (from the greek for anointed) is a longing for that King who will not only come to rule them but to rule all the nations, the whole universe.

          This King will be filled with the Holy Spirit; He is anointed with the Holy Spirit. Matthew will help us understand more deeply the role, the power and the manner in which the Holy Spirit will rule in and with the Person of the King.

          Matthew will point to Jesus, the Son of Mary, as that King. That is Matthew’s gospel, his good news! Jesus is that Christ, that Anointed King, that Messiah who has come to rule the universe and bring to it the justice and peace that the Israelites and all the nations have been longing for since the reign of David.

          Isaiah prophesied in today’s first reading the coming of the Spirit-filled King from the stump of Jesse: On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,

and from his roots a bud shall blossom (Isaiah 11:1).

          This stump and root speaks of a cut down tree, a dead tree. Jesse’s family tree is being depicted as a dead tree. This is the tree from which blossoms a bud, the Spirit-filled King.

          Matthew presents Joseph as the last direct king-descendant of Jesse in the genealogy of Jesus that he has in the first chapter of his gospel. This genealogy that Matthew begins his gospel with shows that stump of Jesse. The dead king-tree of Jesse dies with Joseph and through Mary, comes to life again in Jesus.

          Matthew proclaims to us today that Jesus is that bud that blossoms from that dead tree. He is the Spirit-filled King that will be introduced to the world by John the Baptist.

          John the Baptist proclaims to the nations that the Spirit-filled King is at hand, is in their midst and He comes to judge the world with that same Spirit. He comes to anoint repentant sinners with the same Spirit that His Father anoints Him with as King.

          Matthew will show in his gospel that this King will pour out His Spirit to all the nations from a dead tree: the Cross. Matthew’s King rules and judges from the Cross by pouring out His Spirit on all creation with His dying breath.

          Justice and peace is found only in the Spirit that flows to those who repent and believe in the King of the Jews who judges and saves from the dead tree, the stump of Jesse, the Son of Mary. – Fr. Simi.