ISAIAH 11:1-10 ROMANS 15:4-9 MATTHEW 3:1-12
We are in the Holy Season of Advent and today is the second Sunday. Every year, on this day, as preparation for Christmas, the Church leads us on pilgrimage to the Jordan River, so that we might enrol 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 Christ’s birth, millennia before his Second Coming. But the reason why the Church always visits John at the Jordan is that 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 Gospel Reading of today from St. Matthew presents John the Baptist as our model for Advent preparation; he is the precursor who announced the Lord's coming and who prepared the people by preaching them the 'baptism of repentance.' In the First Reading of today, we hear that Isaiah prophesied him as “A voice of one crying out in the desert; Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths."
Advent is fascinating - a beautiful season of the Liturgical Year. In it, we experience transforming newness. Through the liturgy of the 2nd Sunday of Advent, we are invited to tread the path of repentance and conversion – the just path that leads to hope and the heavenly kingdom that is the goal of Advent expectation. We, therefore, listen attentively to the word of God 'that we might have hope' and that 'the divine reign of justice and peace' might come upon us.
Today the Church chooses John the Baptist as the personification of the Advent theme as he preaches repentance, the transformation of the heart and reform of our lives and invites us to reflect on his prophecy as a preparation for the celebration of the birth of the Savior. Christmas is a worldwide feast that many people prepare for in different ways. For many it is a time for family reunions, for others, it is a time of increased business when people travel more and shop more. We too join the world to prepare to celebrate Christmas as a social event. But the best preparation for the event is the spiritual preparation. We prepare ourselves to celebrate the event when God assumed our nature to take our sins away and to enable us to share in his divine nature. There is no better preparation than that of conversion, of repentance.
If we look at today’s gospel, we can see John calling people to reform their lives. He wants them to free themselves from those things that turn them away from God. However, if we look at this as a static process, then we miss the point. John is not only announcing the coming of the Messiah, but he is also announcing the coming of the next stage of the salvation process. Humanity has evolved now to the point where the process can begin. So he is calling his listeners to reform their lives that the Kingdom of God is at hand. As John the Baptist told the people in his day, so he tells us today. He makes the same call to us. Either repent and turn more to the Lord or walk away and follow other paths. The choice belongs to each of us, every day. And this is the Good News of today.
The core message of this second Sunday of Advent, therefore, is that we must rid ourselves of everything that will present a stumbling block to being with Christ when he comes. Hence, we are encouraged to retrace our steps and make amend for the wrongs we have done. In this season we must expressly take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the purification of our souls. It is a time of making and suing for peace with all people. It is a time of repenting of the wrongs we have done them. It is a season of knocking down all the unnecessary mountains, hills and mounds; filling all the valleys, gullies and potholes in our lives that would present themselves as an obstacle to us from encountering Jesus this season. What are we to repent of? Lots my brethren! We must repent for not loving ourselves enough, of the sins against our neighbours, and our Creator. We must repent for the sins against our state, nation, people and government. We must repent of the sins against our environment, other creatures of God and the entire creation. Most importantly, we must repent of our sins against charity and our lack of humility.
Finally, brethren, If we purge and purify ourselves when he comes he will sanctify and make us whole again. He comes quickly! But only those who are blameless will see him. Let us, therefore, ask God this season of Advent to open our hearts in welcome, and so remove everything that will hinder us from receiving our Lord with joy, so that we may share in his wisdom and thus become one with him when he finally comes in his glory.