We are in the second Sunday of Advent. This season of Advent is a time of grace for us, given to us to prepare our hearts and minds so that we are ready to receive Christ at Christmas. It is a time of grace, reminding us that Jesus is the reason for Christmas. The readings focus on the absolute necessity of our preparation for Christ’s coming into our hearts and lives by true repentance, prayer and the renewal of our lives.
The first reading, taken from the prophet Isaiah, tells us about the Babylonian exiles coming home to their native country, Judah, and their holy city, Jerusalem. Isaiah assures his people that the Lord will lead them in a grand procession to their homeland and take care of them as a shepherd cares for his sheep. In order to make the procession unhindered the prophet says that valleys and mountains are to be leveled, and a highway is to be created in the wilderness. Symbolically, we are reminded that we also need to prepare for the coming of the Lord. The words of Isaiah, speaking of the “voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths,’” were a prediction of the coming of John the Baptist. In this prophesy, Isaiah was also calling upon people to prepare for the coming of the Lord. It was Jesus who brought about true liberation from the bondage of sin for all mankind.
The second reading, taken from the second letter of Peter, makes it clear that the salvation promised by Isaiah was not completely accomplished, even by the first coming of Jesus. It is only when Jesus comes again at the end of time that Isaiah’s words will be entirely fulfilled. The reading further reminds us that His coming is sure, so Peter tells us to be patient and repent of our sins and renew our lives. Through this reading Peter assures his people that Christ’s promise will be fulfilled. That is why we say in the Nicene Creed, “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His Kingdom will have no end.” We, then, are expected to wait, leading lives of holiness and grace. We should be holy in conduct and devotion, being “eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.”
The Gospel tells us through John the Baptist how we should prepare to receive Jesus our Savior Who will come into our lives during the Advent season by repentance and the renewal of life. John preached that the appropriate behavior for those preparing “the way of the Lord” was to be baptized “as they confessed their sins.” He wanted the Jews to prepare their lives for the Messiah by filling in the valleys of prejudice, leveling the mountains of pride and straightening their crooked paths of injustice and immorality. John recommended a baptism of repentance in the river Jordan to the Jews who were familiar with ritual and symbolic washings. The most amazing thing about John’s baptism was that, as a Jew, he was asking his fellow Jews to submit to the baptism of repentance which only a Gentile was obliged to undergo.
We are invited to prepare for Christmas by repenting of our sins and renewing our lives so that Jesus may be reborn in us, in our hearts, homes and families. Let us ask, as did Alexander Pope, the challenging question, “What do I profit, if Jesus is born in thousands of cribs all over the world … but is not born in my heart and in my life?” We also need to allow Jesus to be reborn in our lives. People around us should recognize Jesus’ rebirth in our lives by our sharing love, unconditional forgiveness, a compassionate and merciful heart and a spirit of humble and committed service with others. We need to accept the challenge of John the Baptist to turn this Advent season into a real spiritual renewal by making the necessary preparations for the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus into our hearts and lives. What better way of doing this than making a very good confession receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation?