The Second Sunday of Advent challenges us to prepare our hearts for Jesus. We should also be prepared for Christ’s daily coming into our lives in the Holy Eucharist, in the Holy Bible and in the praying community. Finally, we are asked to be ready to meet Jesus as our Judge at His Second Coming, at the end of our lives and at the end of the world.
In the first reading, the prophet Baruch introduces Yahweh, the God of Israel, preparing the way for, and leading the Babylonian exiles to Jerusalem. Hence, the prophet invites the troubled people of Jerusalem to rejoice and go to high places to watch the return of the exiles. He tells the people to take off “their robe of mourning and misery and put on the splendor of glory from God forever.” This message was very comforting to the people. The reading gave them hope, and, at the same time, announced the return of the whole human race to their loving God. During this Advent season, we, too, are asked to return to the Lord from our slavery to sin. We are reminded to turn away from sin to turn toward God.
In the second reading, Paul advises the Philippian community members to prepare themselves for Christ’s Second Coming by practicing Christian love and by leading pure and blameless lives. Paul prays for the community and says, “Your love increases ever more and more, both in knowledge and every kind of perception.” God’s coming in glory, His Second Coming, compels us to give our best. Paul assures the Philippians and us that God will bring to fruition the work in them and in us.
John the Baptist, in today’s Gospel, challenges the Jews to prepare their lives for receiving their long-awaited Messiah. He told them to prepare a highway in their hearts for their Messiah by levelling the mountains of pride and valleys of impurity, injustice and omissions and by straightening their crooked ways. John instructed them to get ready by repenting their sins, renewing their lives, and expressing their repentance by receiving the baptism of repentance in the River Jordan.
We, too, have to fill in the “valleys” of our souls, formed from our shallow prayer life and a minimalist way of living our Faith. We have to straighten out whatever crooked paths we have been walking, for example, engaging in habitual sins or by becoming involved in a sinful relationship. If we have been involved in some dishonest practices at work or at home, we are called to straighten them out and make restitution. If we have been harboring grudges or hatred, or failing to be reconciled with others, now is the time to clear away all
the debris. As individuals, we might have to overcome deep-seated resentment, persistent fault-finding, unwillingness to forgive, dishonesty in our dealings with others, or a bullying attitude. Therefore, we all have to level the “mountains” of our pride and egocentrism by practicing the true humility of rendering humble service to others.
John’s message calls us to confront and confess our sins. We need to turn away from them in sincere repentance and receive God’s forgiveness. Next, we need to forgive others who have offended us and ask forgiveness for our offenses. Jesus is very explicit about this in Matthew 6:14-15. He says, “For if you forgive men their transgressions, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”
On another note, I would like to bring to your attention the programs and activities we have here at Santa Sophia during the season of Advent. We will have Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament every Wednesday during Confession at 5:00 pm which will conclude with Benediction at 6:50 pm. The Advent penance service at our parish is this Wednesday, December 12, at 7:00 pm. There will be ten priests on hand to hear confessions. Don’t miss it. These are a few important opportunities for us to enter more deeply into the spirit of Advent and to prepare us to celebrate the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord.