Second Sunday of Advent (Cycle C)


John the Baptist Preaching - by TIEPOLO, Giovanni Battista - from Cappella Colleoni, Bergamo . . . . .

The impressive figure of John the Baptist, delivering his sermon with raised forefinger from the top of a rock in the landscape, dominates the right-hand side of the picture. His cross staff and the lamb at his feet refer to the fate of Christ. The left-hand side of the picture is almost completely taken up by men, women and children, who listen spellbound to the sermon. The young woman placed in the very centre of the picture breast-feeding her child, who thus conforms to the standardized portrayal of the Madonna and Child, can be understood as an allusion to the birth of Christ, which is the subject of John's sermon.

 

 Baruch 5:1-9; Philippians 1:4-6,8-11; Luke 3:1-6

 

Baruch 5:1-9

Jerusalem -- God will show your splendor. Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever: Wrapped in the cloak of justice from God, bear on your head the mitre that displays the glory of the eternal name. For God will show all the earth your splendor: you will be named by God forever the peace of justice, the glory of God's worship.

Up, Jerusalem! stand upon the heights; look to the east and see your children gathered from the east and the west at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that they are remembered by God. Led away on foot by their enemies they left you: but God will bring them back to you borne aloft in glory as on royal thrones. For God has commanded that every lofty mountain be made low, And that the age-old depths and gorges be filled to level ground, that Israel may advance secure in the glory of God. The forests and every fragrant kind of tree have overshadowed Israel at God's command; For God is leading Israel in joy by the light of His glory, with His mercy and justice for company.

 

Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11

Show yourselves sinless and without blame in the day of Christ. In every prayer I utter, I rejoice as I plead on your behalf, at the way you have all continually helped promote the gospel from the very first day. I am sure of this much: that He Who has begun the good work in you will carry it through to completion, right up to the day of Christ Jesus. God Himself can testify how much I long for each of you with the affection of Christ Jesus! My prayer is that your love may more and more abound, both in understanding and wealth of experience, so that with a clear conscience and blameless conduct you may learn to value the things that really matter, up to the very day of Christ. It is my wish that you may be found rich in the harvest of justice which Jesus Christ has ripened in you, to the glory and praise of God.

 

Luke 3:1-6

In the fifteenth year of the rule of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was Procurator of Judea, Herod Tetrarch of Galilee, Philip his brother Tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias Tetrarch of Abilene, during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God was spoken to John son of Zechariah in the desert. He went about the entire region of the Jordan proclaiming a baptism of repentance which led to the forgiveness of sins, as is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: "A herald's voice in the desert, crying, 'Make ready the way of the Lord, clear Him a straight path. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be leveled. The windings shall be made straight and the rough ways smooth, and all mankind shall see the salvation of God'".

 

Second Sunday of Advent (Cycle C)

by Father Charles Irvin, M.Div, J.D.

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If, during an examination, I were to ask you for the one word that sums up the theme of today’s Advent readings, what would be that word? Shouldn’t it be “ Preparation”? Preparing for what? The simple answer would be: “The birth of Christ”. But we all recognize I’m sure, that the answer is more complex.

To dig deeper, Mother Church takes us back to the world in which God was remote, distant, unapproachable, and seemingly unavailable to us. She takes us back to the centuries and ages before our Messiah arrived, before the birth of Christ. She does this in order to ask us the question: What is the meaning of your life without God in it? That question, as we all know, is a current question -- not simply an ancient one. Where is God in our human, lived-out world?

All around us we see people whose lives are lived absent God. We have our own personal moments of discomfort when we face the fact that much of our lives are lived without God being present. God is absent to us, for the most part. Some of our contemporaries even claim God is dead. Others claim the idea of God is a crutch that weak humans, people lacking personal strength and courage, invented to prop themselves up.

It seems evident to me that we need some major reconstruction this Advent, not just redecoration. Are we preparing for Christ’s birth simply in getting presents, buying and decorating a Christmas tree, or in sending out Christmas cards? Mind you, all of those things are good in themselves. But aren’t we facing something that’s much more important, namely the absence of God in our lives?

It’s a question of making room, giving a place for God to enter into our space and time.

Every year as Christmas approaches we witness the public, on-going debate over the place of God in our nation’s culture. Conflicts arise in our public schools over Christmas carols, and Christmas symbols. We’ve just come out of a great public debate over the place of the Ten Commandments in our public life. Lawsuits arise each year over whether or not God should be privatized. With each passing year it seems to me we move farther and farther away from the position taken by our nation’s Founding Fathers, a position that grounded the future of our Republic on a moral and legal basis that recognized the rights implanted in us by God, rights not able to be given or taken away by our government’s Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches.

Is there room for God in our civic life? Is it not permissible for Christians to publicly acknowledge the Christ of Christmas? I fear that Christians are sacrificing their beliefs on the altar of political correctness to an extent never contemplated by the framers of our Constitution.

The season of Advent is, after all is said and done, something to be celebrated in our own homes and churches. Here, again, it’s a question of making room – dedicating space and time to seeing and acknowledging the approach and presence of God to us personally, and in our families. It’s a time of spiritual renewal.

Why not go about this renewal in a planned and thoughtful way? With our children we can open a door each day on an Advent calendar, thus heightening their anticipation of the great day of Christmas, now just over two weeks away.

We can convert our frustrations into opportunities to turn to God. When we’re stuck in traffic we can use the time to pray or talk with God. When we’re making a phone call and put on hold we can convert that time from being a period of frustration to an Advent waiting time. After all, isn’t Advent a time of waiting, of hopeful expectancy?

Then there are Advent penance services in our parish. Our children’s religious education classes [and our parish school] have special Christmas plays and parties. Why not commit ourselves to make them a part of our Advent time?

Will you be going to an office party or some other festive event where you work? Well, then, wear something that has to do with Christ’s birth instead of simply going along with a generalized celebration of a secular “Winter Wonderland” holiday.

It is said that Christmas is for children. There is truth in that sentiment. It is said that Christmas is the celebration of family. There is truth in that sentiment also. Nevertheless we shouldn’t overlook the fact that the celebration of Christ’s birth is for each one of us, personally and individually. The wood of the crib will eventually become the wood of the Cross. It is because of Christmas that we will have a Good Friday and an Easter Sunday, the ultimate celebration of God’s coming to us. We should not fail to notice that on December 26th we remember the First Martyr, Saint Stephen, and on December 28th we remember the slaughter of the Holy Innocents.

Advent, then, is a time when we pay attention to the fact that God came to us in Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary in the wonder of stars and angels over Bethlehem. And Advent likewise looks for the coming of God to us at the end of the world when the elements of the universe will shaken, the stars will fall from heaven, and the sun and moon will no longer give us light.

But today we need to pay attention to the coming of God to us in the here and now, not just in our past and in our future. Today, in God’s everlasting “Now” we need to pay attention to what Advent brings us – those wonderful moments when we can, right now, make space and time for God to enter into us, into our lives, our time, our hearts and our souls, there to tell us the only truth that really matters, namely that He loves us.

What will we give Him in return?