Is 40:1-5. 9-11; 2 Peter. 3:8-14; Mk.1:1-8;
Today, the Second Sunday of Advent, the emphasis begins to shift from the Lord’s final coming in glory to his coming in human flesh. Every year, on this day as preparation for Christmas, the Church leads us on pilgrimage to the Jordan River, so that we might enroll in the school of John the Baptist, hear his message, and put it into action in our lives. At first glance, it seems like a strange choice to meet him at the Jordan, 30 years after the birth of Christ and millennia before His Second Coming. But the reason why the Church always visits John at the Jordan is because he was the one chosen by God the Father from all eternity to get His people ready to receive His Son, who was already walking toward the Jordan River to inaugurate his public ministry.
The readings today put before us the concern God has for His people, and an admonishment to prepare the way spiritually for the coming of the Lord. In the First Reading from the Prophet Isaiah, the Prophet consoles the people of Israel in exile and assures them of the fulfillment of the promise of the Messiah. In this passage also known as ‘the poem of consolation’, God shows how He cares for each person individually. The Gospel Reading from St. Mark presents John the Baptist as the precursor of the birth of the Messiah. John called all to “Prepare a way for the Lord, make straight his paths” (Mk:1:3). He proclaimed a Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins and announced the coming of Jesus who would baptize them with the Holy Spirit. The preparatory work announced by John is the way we are called to get ourselves ready to receive the Lord who is coming.
Advent is a time of longing for the Lord. It is a time of waiting for His presence in our lives. We live in a broken world, as did the Prophet Isaiah. He and his people were in exile, away from their own land, and persecuted by others. Our human world has not changed all that much. There are many exiles today, many refugees and many who have had to flee from their homes and their countries. Yet, the Prophet Isaiah hears a word from God, telling him that all shall be well. This word is expressed in some of the most beautiful writing of the Hebrew Scriptures. Even in our English translation, the sense of joy and gladness and the sense of trust in God come through to us so strongly. “Console my people, console them says your God. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, and call to her that her time of service is ended, that her sin is atoned for.” (Is:1-2)
Advent is about our return to the Lord — but only after we experience our own emptiness and nothingness having turned away from our sinful ways in sincere repentance so as to receive God’s forgiveness can we begin to look for that, which might bring meaning and wholeness to our lives and to those we love. Repentance is a part of the very “foundation” of the true Christian faith, Hebrews (6:1).
There should be no doubt that the way we are living now is the way we shall die and be judged. Thus, in Scripture, the present moment, the “now” moment, is the time to turn our hearts to the Lord and to repent. The Greek word metanoia translates as “repent” which literally means “to change one’s mind” and, by extension, to turn around, to express regret or transform one’s heart, attitude and behaviour. This is brought out very clearly in the Second Letter of Peter. It is foolishness, at one level, to worry about when the world will end or when we will die. The wise person is the one who lives in the present moment. He reminds us that ‘the Day of the Lord’ will come like a thief and the Lord will establish his Kingdom of truth, justice and peace in a new heaven and new earth. It is doing things in a new way that gives life both to oneself and others: a way that allows Christ to enter more deeply into our lives
Again, in the Gospel of Mark we are invited to “Prepare a way for the Lord, make His paths straight” The Second Sunday of Advent is always about Saint John the Baptist and his role of going before the Lord to prepare His ways. John the Baptist becomes the symbol of this same invitation to each of us. We are invited to prepare the way of the Lord in our hearts and in our communities and in our lands. Like John, we must be humble before the Lord. We must recognize that the Lord is mightier than we are. We must come to know that we cannot save ourselves. There must be a point in our lives when we finally realize that God is present, that He wants to save us and we must abandon ourselves to Him. So today let us open our hearts and listen for the word of the Lord in our lives. Let us be aware of our own human brokenness and come to long for the Lord. Let us invite Jesus to dwell within us and let us ask the Holy Spirit to guide us so that we may be found watching and waiting when He comes.
In Mark, John the Baptist is presented as our model for Advent preparation – his message was present not only in his words but also in his whole life. The man himself was the message. Through simplicity and asceticism of life John gave his witness, and as a result of his witness, people came to him, believed in him, and obeyed him. This Advent—which is a gift of the Lord to us, and who knows it may be our last— let us free up time in our lives to go to meet Jesus by prayer and the reading of scripture. We will succeed or fail on the basis of how well we tread the path of repentance and conversion so that the Lord may come to us. This is the Good News about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Sr. Máiréad Morrissey OP