Second Sunday of Advent
Book of the Prophet Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11; Psalm 85:9-14;
Second Letter of Saint Peter 3:8-14; Mark 1:1-8
The Sermon of St John the Baptist by Pieter Bruegel (the elder), circa 1566.
"Prepare the way of the Lord!" The Second Sunday of Advent introduces us to very familiar and thought-provoking readings from sacred scripture. Words like "repent" and John the Baptist's appearance increase a spirit or sense of something about to happen.
The prophet Isaiah announces a new theme of "comfort" to the people of Israel. Their time of exile and punishment has finally come to an end. I believe this passage from Isaiah should be spoken aloud, read slowly, followed by a period of sacred silence for private contemplation. Yes, it is that powerful. It is like a spiritual Christmas fruitcake, dense and filled will all kinds of sweet comforts.
In the Gospel narrative of Saint Mark, we hear John the Baptist fulfilling his role in the drama of Christ's redemptive life. The people of Israel had been waiting and watching for their redeemer, their "comfort" for so long, and they hoped that John was the promised one. "One mightier than I am is coming after me," John told those who came to him. He said that their waiting is how they remain faithful; hoping is not having, but having faith that they would be comforted.
I suspect that all of us have had to wait for a family member to arrive at an airport or a bus station at one time or another. We may feel a bit of anger while we wait, but it is mostly impatience that creates our angst.
Impatience is a healthy spiritual response. The virtue of patience is experienced only with the condition of having to, well, wait. We do not wait for something about which we do not care. We wait for promises to be kept, reunions to be enjoyed, and relationships to be reinforced. The people of Israel knew the promises and had experienced the dismantling of the Exile. Their faith, experienced often in their cries for freedom, was counted as their holiness.
The Advent readings and liturgies are calling us to repentance. We are called to repent through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and to be born anew. We are called to repent from giving up on our own holiness, which is God's promised gift.
Every valley will be filled in and every mountain brought down, and the crooked way made straight and not merely in Israel but also in our lives. We all have the opportunity to renew our awareness of needing a savior during the holy season of Advent. If we have no one to wait for, then we do not even wait for ourselves or our best selves to arrive and be reborn.
Therefore, we must prepare by not feeling sorry for ourselves but by sensing the emptiness of our valleys and the ruggedness of our personal mountains. Jesus came to save us, not to solve us!
Question of the Day: How will you begin Advent in a way that rekindles your spirit with the coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ?
Prayer: "Lord Jesus, Master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas. We who have so much to do and seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day. We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us. Amen." (Advent Prayer)