THE VOICE CALLING US TO REPENTANCE AND HOLINESS
All three readings for the Second Sunday of Advent focus on the absolute necessity of our readying ourselves by repentance and reparation for Christ’s coming.
the first reading, Isaiah assures his people that the Lord will restore their homeland to them and care for them as a shepherd cares for the sheep. In this reading he consoles the Jews in exile in Babylon, giving them Yahweh’s assurance that their 60 years of Babylonian captivity will end soon and that they will be going home as free people. He assures them that they will be brought back to Israel by the power of God. Isaiah is not shy about saying that the Exile was a punishment for sin. But Israel’s sins are forgiven now, and the exile is over. They are to consider this return as a second exodus. However, something was expected of them; they were expected to create pathway for this return to take place. The call today is “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths”. Isaiah says prepare the way for the Lord, make His paths straight; valleys and mountains are to be leveled, and a highway is to be created in the wilderness.
Isaiah brings a message of consolation to the people of Israel and by extension to us announcing the end of their sufferings at the coming of the Messiah. However, every crooked way in our lives must be made straight, hills must be filled and mountains made low for the Messiah to enter and his glory revealed.
The second reading gives an answer to those who scoff at the expectation of the Second Coming of Christ, explaining that God’s way of reckoning time is different from ours and that God has His own reasons for delaying Christ’s second coming. Peter gives us the assurance that Jesus is sure to come again although we do not know when. Hence, while we wait, we should be leading lives of holiness and godliness. St. Peter admonishes us to be living in holiness and righteousness as the ways of straightening the road within us. Since this present age will dissolve, may we be found spotless and unblemished as the Lord comes. We should be holy in conduct and devotion, being "eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace."
The Gospel tells us that the restoration of the fallen world has already begun, starting with the arrival of John the Baptist, the messenger and forerunner of the Messiah. John speaks of one, more powerful than he – Jesus Christ – who will baptize us with the Holy Spirit. Each of us has received the gift of the Holy Spirit in Baptism, and now we live in the Spirit each day, waiting for the return of our Lord. Thus, we become John the Baptist's successors, preparing for Christ's return which will bring a new and perfect world.
John the Baptist did not hesitate to call on the Jews to prepare a way for the Lord and make his road straight. John, set an example and prepared a way for Jesus by calling people for repentance and baptizing them as a sign of repentance. Advent basically is a time for repentance because only repentant hearts shall receive the grace and gifts of the coming of Jesus Christ (Christmas). The signs of true repentance this Christmas must be seen in low crime rate, more forgiveness for those who have failed us, less wickedness, less materialism, more giving, more chaste living, more love etc.
John the Baptist saw his mission as the one who prepared the people for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Beloved, you and I also have to prepare the roads of our lives to meet the Lord, whose birthday we are about to celebrate. The preparation involves filling the valleys in our lives and leveling our mountains.
Jesus’ coming is for everyone but those who can receive him are only those whose hearts are not landlocked. As bad roads block good things from outside world so does a sinful soul blocks access to the grace and salvation that Jesus brings. When Jesus came in history many did not recognize him. Now he comes in mystery (in the word and sacraments) many still are yet to let him in. When he comes in glory would our hearts be ready receive him? Let us scrape the rock of hatred, fill the potholes of prejudice, cut down the trees of pride, demolish the bumps of the flesh and the king of glory will have access to our hearts and save us. Be a road worker, always making a way for the Lord.
John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea…A voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his path straight.’ A wilderness has the following qualities:
A Place of Prayer: The wilderness is a place to encounter God and this explains why the Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai (Numbers 1:1; 9:1). Moses made a request to Pharaoh to allow the Israelites to go to the wilderness to worship God. Before Jesus commenced his ministry, the spirit drove him into the desert where he prayed and fasted for forty days (Mark 1:12). When people go for retreats and spiritual recreation they experience the wilderness in which they encounter God. An Incorruptible Place: The wilderness is also a place where God’s creation (nature) is still at its best. To be in the wilderness therefore means to be distant from the corruption and confusion of the world.
A Place of Test: In going to the Promised Land, the Lord chose the way of the wilderness for his people as a test of their power to endure. It is a place of temptation (Hebrews 3:8) and where people experience a kind of hardship that will effect a positive change in their lives.
Solitude: Being in the wilderness also means to stand alone with none but God in different moments when we are abandoned by family and friends. During this Christmas we should think of people who are in the wilderness of loneliness and spend some time with them: the sick, elderly, the bereaved who have lost spouse or children, the physically challenged, the broken- hearted and those who are homebound.
John's message calls us also to confront and confess our sins; to turn away from them in sincere repentance; to receive God's forgiveness; and most importantly, to look to Jesus. Do we need to receive God's forgiveness? There are basically two reasons why we fail to receive forgiveness. The first is that we fail to repent, and the second is that we fail to forgive.
The effectiveness of John’s ministry: John’s ministry was effective primarily because his life was his message: he lived what he preached. The Israelites had not had a prophet for four hundred years, and the people were waiting expectantly for one. John’s message was effective also because he was completely humble. His role was to serve Jesus and to serve the people. "He must increase, I must decrease," he says elsewhere (John 3:30). That is why he publicly confessed that he was not fit to be a slave before the Messiah. We too need to remove the contradictions that have characterized our lives. We need to match what we say with what we do, only then can be authentically live out the life God is calling us out to do this season.
Prayer - Lord, let your light burn brightly in my heart that I may know the joy and freedom of your kingdom. Help me to repent of everything that displeases, and teach me to love what you love and hate what you hate. Fill me with your Holy Spirit and empower me to witness the truth of your Gospel and to point others to Jesus Christ. Amen!!!