Second Sunday of Advent (2020)
Readings:Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11Psalms 85:9-132 Peter 3:8-14Mark 1:1-8
Oh, that the words of this week’s Scripture were true? If so we might call this ‘Comfort Sunday,’ for that is what Isaiah says God wants us to be given: “Comfort, give comfort to my people.” How much we long for the comfort Isaiah speaks of, and yet far too often our lives are made to feel anguish and upset. Even though at the Day of the Lord God will come with power, it’s the power of a shepherd “who feeds his flock,” and “in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in His bosom.” Oh, to feel the warmth of the Lord’s embrace! That would bring us the comfort that all people seek.
We would also like some share in what the responsorial psalm proclaims, for we would like a share in the peace that only God can give. The attractive images of the psalm is what we long for: “Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven.” If “justice” is truly going to “walk before the Lord” when He comes, then we can assume He is not coming soon, for we look for justice in the church and the world but we find so little. Further, it is anything but “truth springing out of the earth.” The preponderance of falsehoods and conspiracy theories, of lies and innuendo, make it seem unlikely He is coming, and yet He is needed more than ever now, at this very moment in time.
If the people of St. Peter’s day thought that the Lord’s “delay” in coming was unbearable, what are we to think several thousands of years later? The second reading reminds us of what we have been reminded about for weeks now: “the day of the Lord will come like a thief” in the night, and when He does come “the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire.” Not the most encouraging of thoughts. But we must not overlook Peter’s question to his people: “what sort of persons ought you to be” when the Lord does come? Do we want God to find us trembling in fear, on the precipice of despair, paralyzed into doing nothing at all? No, St. Peter wanted his community to conduct themselves “in holiness and devotion,” patiently waiting for the Lord’s coming, and making sure that when He sees us, we are “without spot or blemish before Him, [and] at peace.”
The comfort God desires for us can bring us the kind of peace we long for. It is the comfort brought by a strange man (“clothed in camel’s hair” who “feeds on locusts and wild honey”) named John, who appears at the very beginning of Mark’s gospel. The opening lines of the gospel proclaim the sentiment found in our first reading from Isaiah: “A voice crying out in the desert,” preparing “the way of the Lord, and making straight his paths.” He is not the Messiah. Indeed, he “is not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals,” and as he stands knee deep in the Jordan River baptizing pilgrims, he points others to the one who “will baptize [them] with the Holy Spirit.” His way of bringing comfort to the people is by “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” There is no morbid intention of him bringing up other’s sinfulness, for he knows that it is only with a humility capable of recognizing one’s own shortcomings that a person will strive for something better, for someone better. A clear recognition of our sinfulness is the “happy fault” (candle hymn, Easter Vigil) that makes us strive after the redemption brought and won for us by Jesus. We find the comfort and the peace we so desire by “conducting ourselves in holiness and devotion,” living humble lives, and being kind, and generous, and loving as possible.
The reflection from the recently canonized St. Oscar Romero, and found for this Sunday in “Give Us This Day,” is worth repeating:
“Christ is now in history.Christ is in the womb of the people.Christ is now bringing about the new heavens and the new earth.Christ became a man of his people and of his time: He lived as a Jew, he worked as a laborer of Nazareth, and since then he continues to become incarnate in everyone.If many have distanced themselves from the church, it is precisely because the church has somewhat estranged itself from humanity.But a church that can feel as its own all that is human and wants to incarnate the pain, the hope, the affliction of all who suffer and feel joy, such a church will be Christ loved and awaited, Christ present. And that depends on us….Advent should admonish us to discoverin each brother or sister that we greet,in each friend whose hand we shake,in each beggar who asks for bread,in each worker who wants to use the right to join a union,in each peasant who looks for work in the coffee groves, the face of Christ.Then it would not be possible to rob them, to cheat them, to deny them their rights.They are Christ, and whatever is done to them Christ will take as done to himself.This is what Advent is: Christ living among us.”