2nd. Sunday of Advent (B)
(Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11; 2nd. Peter 3:8-14; Mark 1:1-8)
There is one thing, my friends, that you must never forget: that with God ‘a
day’ can mean a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day.
God is infinite, He is not subject to time; and so, the admonition contained in this morning’s reading from St. Peter recalls to our minds that John the Baptist’s preparing the way for Jesus around 28 AD., yes, and even the first reading from the prophet Isaiah which was first heard about 540 BC., are still as relevant as they were then: they tell us how, in this Advent time, to prepare to welcome the God Who is coming, coming into our lives to transform them, if we will allow Him.
‘If we will allow Him’, yes, Jesus’ message to mankind, His Gospel proclamation, is an address, even an appeal, to our freedom. The time will come when He will be revealed as Judge and then, we will have no say in the matter, we will be judged according to our works; for the present, however, we are offered a choice, we can opt for good or for evil. If we choose evil, or, let us put it in St. Paul’s language, if our choice of preference is for the flesh – all the sensible joys and pleasures offered to us by this world – if we deny our need for, our dependence upon, God and prefer to trust in the strength of our own right hand so to speak and the cleverness of our mind, we shall, St. Paul warns us, choose corruption and death, with all that they bring of pain and bitterness. Make such decisions for pleasure and power in youth, comfort and profit in middle age, with immediately-to-hand advantages always being in view, and it will become a habit you cannot break, not even as those pleasures become daily more insipid and short lived, and the desired advantages prove ever more illusory; ultimately, indeed, it can become a habit so ingrained that there is neither pleasure nor advantage, or anything of that sort left to be tasted, nothing but unsatisfied self, thwarted sensuality, and bitter pride. And the terrible danger, dear People of God, is that, having been destined for eternity before God, our denial of such a destiny will be no mere peccadillo but a deliberate anti-life option, and could indeed, even become a positive choice of death and corruption in a self-destructive fury of frustration and pride.
That is why the option for good is characterized as salvation: it is God saving us from ourselves, saving us from the powers of destruction which allure us on every hand with their seeming sweetness and deceptive promises.
Our Catholic and Christian Advent season is a time for truth about ourselves and about God, a time for sizing life up in all its aspects, for listening to and recognizing the deepest needs and aspirations of our being, it is also a time for youthfulness of spirit, looking forward in hope and opting for life in all its fulness, eternal life, in the conviction that by God’s goodness to us in Jesus we can attain it.
Advent is a time for divine truth, for listening to the voice which, as the Gospel said ‘cries in the wilderness’, a ‘still small voice’ that whispers in the depths of our hearts as we wander in the wilderness of youthful experience, a voice which urges us to give the Lord Jesus a chance in our lives, to prepare a way for Him, to make His paths straight, that He might come to us, enter into our lives, as King and Saviour; every valley of despair is to be filled in with confidence, trust, and hope in the Lord Whose Spirit guides and sustains His People in all circumstances; no matter how difficult, painful, or shameful they may be.
Advent is a time for truth about ourselves, for every mountain and hill of pride and self-conceit to be laid low, for there can be no peace, no true fellowship or love, in the heart of a proud and conceited person centred on self-first-and-foremost, and every cliff of precipitous anger and violence must become a plain where justice, patience and peace rule, allowing the ridges of anxiety to become a valley of trust and contentment.
However, such blessings, desirable and admirable as they are, are not ends in themselves, for Christianity does not offer us merely a happier, but still earthly, life; it offers the truly authentic fulness of humanity where death no longer overshadows all, indeed, it promises that:
The glory of God shall be revealed (for us and in us), and all mankind shall see it.
Christianity offers the prospect of eternal blessedness and glory in God, thus making Advent a time of supreme hope, giving us a sense of belonging and significance in creation, and among our fellows of being endowed with a supremely beautiful, transcendent purpose: the opportunity of being a channel, an instrument, an influence for good which is able to face up to and overcome the forces of evil that wreak so much havoc in our physical world and human society today; and above all, Advent offers us the supreme joy of personal communion with, and eternal fulfilment in, the all-holy God Who is our Father, our Saviour and our Brother, and our most intimate Spirit of holiness and truth, God’s Gift to guide and sustain us in the darkest depths and details of our life and being.
People of God, Isaiah tells us that:
The time of service (slavery) is ended.
We need no longer have to endure being pushed around, hither and thither, by our fears and passions, by every passing emotion that froths up in the unending disturbances of life. We can learn this Advent to appreciate and mould ourselves to the responsorial psalm we heard today:
I will hear what the Lord God has to say, a voice that speaks of peace, peace for His people. His help is near for those who fear Him, and His glory will dwell in our land.
His help is near, indeed very near for those who experience time under the guidance and inspiration of Mother Church’s Liturgy. For us here today, Jesus is about to come among us as we offer His sacrifice at Holy Mass, He will come into our very hearts as we offer ourselves with Him and receive Holy Communion. What welcome will we give Him? Not only our own lives depend on the answer to that question but the well-being of our modern world is likewise in the balance. Welcome Him, every one of you, with all the sincerity of your joyful heart and trusting mind.