Friday, December 4, 2009

December 6: Second Sunday of Advent Year C

December 6: Second Sunday of Advent Year C
Readings: Baruch 5:1-9; Philippians 1:3-6,8-11; Luke 3:1-3

All three readings this Sunday focus on preparing the way of the Lord in terms of a radical change of heart. The first reading from the prophet Baruch speaks about all the elect of God assembled in jubilation because God has remembered them. “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 heads the mitre that displays the glory of the eternal name.” The prophet further calls God’s people then and us today, to a preparation that involves a radical change of heart – flattening the mountains, the hills, and filling the valleys. Paul in the second reading urges us to be pure and blameless for the day of Christ. The Gospel reading is much more direct in urging us to "prepare the way of the Lord". These words quoted by Luke from Isaiah are associated with John the Baptist, who summons his listeners to a Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins; a call that involves a complete change of heart from sin to the practice of virtue. Such a radical redirection signifies walking with God in a new way. In John's ministry, this was accompanied by water purification, signifying a cleansing of mind and heart. St. Luke bases John the Baptist's mission on the prophecy of Isaiah, which points to the radical nature of repentance in preparation for the imminent coming of the Messiah.

The Gospel of today begins with quite a solemn introduction: “In the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, while Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea and Herold was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis.....during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas,....” something spectacular is about to take place. That sounds like the introduction of the birth of Jesus, but it is not. What is to happen however is an announcement: “the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert. This word of God was the proclamation of “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” The central message of John is an appeal for conversion, a radical change of heart, a call to turn away from selfishness and sin. In so doing we open our hearts to God's grace, which is the meaning behind straightening the paths of the Lord, filling every valley and making the rough roads smooth. These are very familiar images for people all over the world. We go long ways to prepare for important guests coming to our homes in order to show deep appreciation and love. Advent challenges us to realize that Christ is more than any human guest. Christ is coming into the world and into our hearts as our Saviour, bearing the most precious gift God could ever give us, salvation. What is the message of this Sunday? 1) This Advent you and I are challenged to undergo a sincere and genuine conversion of heart, a radical return to our baptismal commitment to walk with God in a new way; 2) We are challenged to be today’s John the Baptist, proclaiming a message of repentance and forgiveness. 3) Such a message could be transmitted through ordinary little things we do to others: a call to someone who is experiencing hard times; a stop by the hospital or life care home; a smile at someone or a wink to a child.

©2009 John S. Mbinda