SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT (2018)
Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11
There is a great deal of preparing that is meant to happen during the Advent season. We are meant to prepare for that day of celebration when we commemorate Christ’s birth on that first Christmas Day in Bethlehem. We are meant to prepare our hearts in the present for the coming of the Lord in the species of bread and wine in the Eucharist, a moment no less miraculous than what happened in that stable when farm animals witnessed the entrance of God into our world. Finally, we are called to prepare for that second and final coming of Christ, when God will appear as Judge. At the end of our lives, and at the end of the world when Jesus will come with power and great glory on the clouds of Heaven, He will bring all waiting to its everlasting completion.
Our need to prepare is great, and the task might seem overwhelming, until we recognize that all the preparing for past, present and future can be accomplished simultaneously, and needs to occur constantly, not just during the season of Advent. To prepare our hearts and souls for Christmas, is also to prepare for the end of our lives, and for the end of time. To prepare our hearts and souls for the precious sacrament of the Eucharist, is also to prepare for that moment when we will stand before God to make an accounting of our lives. The simple call to follow in the footsteps of our Lord and Savior prepares us for all, and compels us to make ourselves more worthy of the name ‘Christian.’
Prophets, like Baruch in our first reading, were frequently reminding theJewish people that they had not been forgotten by God. They were not unaccustomed to suffering, and their oppression by stronger foreign powers frequently punctuates their rich history. Although the Jews “were led away on foot by their enemies,” the prophets assured them that God would lead them back “in joy by the light of His glory, with His mercy and justice for company.” All obstacles would be removed, lofty mountains would “be made low,” and “age-old depths and gorges [will] be filled to level ground.” The Jewish people could rejoice, even in the midst of hardship and difficulty, because they were “remembered by God.”
It is this sentiment that is evoked by Luke in our gospel passage with his introduction of John, “the son of Zechariah,” who “went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” John the Baptist is the precursor of the Lord, encouraging people with the words of ancient prophets to “prepare the way of the Lord.” Commenting on this Sunday’s liturgy, Kimberly Hope Belcher, of Notre Dame, writes: “In Advent we wait to joyfully reap what Christ has sown. Painfully aware of our failures and factions, we look eastward, longing for the return of Christ who lays the smooth path of love. His Incarnation proves that even the division between God and sinful humanity is not too great for love to overcome. And, if that chasm can be bridged, we can both hope for and work toward peace and justice that will triumph over our… divisions.”
Our Advent liturgy calls us to prepare for Christ’s coming by increasing our love for God and for one another. Paul’s prayer for the Philippians in our second reading is that their “love may increase ever more and more… so that [they] may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.” If we wish to heed the calls to prepare for the Lord then we must make an effort to be more loving, removing all the obstacles that prevent us from loving as we should. Acts of kindness should be plentiful and frequent, and not just relegated to the generous Christmas season. Reflecting on this second Sunday of Advent, Michael Simone, SJ, states that “When Christ comes again, may he find his disciples comforting a victim of human trafficking, giving encouragement to a homeless addict, repairing the damage inflicted on an abused spouse or mentoring an abandoned child. By these signs He will recognize their transformation. These disciples will be the wheat [God] gathers into his barns.” During this Advent season may we acknowledge that “the Lord has done great things for us,” and may that recollection “fill us with joy” and encourage us to become more loving.
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