2nd Sunday of Advent (9 December 2018)
Bar 5:1-9; Phil 1:4-6, 8-11; Luke 3:1-6
The readings this week focus on preparation. This is a theme that is especially relevant to the Season of Advent as we get ready for Christmas. But just what is it that we are to prepare for and how should we go about our preparations?
The first reading is taken from Baruch, who was Jeremiah's secretary. Baruch was writing to the Jewish people in exile as they despaired over the destruction of the Temple and their own separation from the Holy City, Jerusalem. Baruch’s message was one of hope: Jerusalem could look forward to a time when she could replace her robes of mourning with those of the splendor of God’s glory. There is also a familiar promise – that the mountains would be made low and the depths and gorges filled o level ground so as to make easier, Israel’s advance to her beloved city. God Himself provides the way for us to return to Him. The prophecy of Israel’s return to Jerusalem and of the restoration of the Temple was of course fulfilled. But the reading reminds of our continuing wait for the restoration of the eternal Jerusalem in God’s holy presence, which will be achieved through God’s own victory for us.
In the Gospel, it is John the Baptist who prepares the way for the start of the public ministry of Jesus. John went through the whole region of the Jordan proclaiming a baptism of repentance. Repentance signifies something much more profound than regret for one’s sins and failings. It connotes a turning away from sin; a conscious grieving over the sin that separates us from God and a decision not to repeat it. But John also cited a similar promise, this time from Isaiah 40:3-5 – that the valleys would be filled, mountains made low and winding roads made straight. The Gospel reminds us that each of us must be prepared to encounter God. That preparation is best done by repentance; and we then claim the work already done by the Crucified Christ, the source of our righteousness, so that our way to God may be smoothened.
The second reading taken from St Paul’s letter to the Philippians guides us further. The good work that God has begun in us with our baptism must continue until the day Jesus returns in glory. Our love must increase and we are to be holy and to rejoice in His righteousness, so that we may be blameless when He returns.
Each of the readings anticipate an event: the restoration of Jerusalem; Jesus’ public ministry and the people’s encounter with God; and the second coming of Jesus. Christmas is a time when we recount the birth of Our Savior Jesus; but at a deeper level it is a reminder of each of the events central to the readings. It is fitting that as we approach Christmas, we prepare ourselves for that Holy Night of the Savior’s birth by repentance and by claiming the forgiveness that is obtained for us by Jesus. It is His blood that lays low the mountains and levels the valleys in our journey to greet Our Lord. When we become conscious of the love that drove God to come as a child and to walk to His Cross, just so we could be saved, we inevitably grieve over our sins and seek to love as He does.
Some points for reflection as you read the passages:
- Is there something that you need to take to the Lord in the sacrament of reconciliation or to seek His forgiveness as you prepare for Christmas?
- St Paul again emphasizes the importance of love in our vocation as Christians. How can you make this a vital part of your Advent preparation?
- What are some of the things you could do this Advent so as to make of yourself a pure and blameless offering to God?