Friday, December 3, 2010

Dec 5: Second Sunday of Advent Year A

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Dec 5: Second Sunday of Advent Year A
Readings: Is 11:1-10; Rm 15:4-9; Mt 3:1-12

Last Sunday, the readings called us to stay awake and watch “because the Son of Man is coming at an hour” we least expect. Quite similar to last Sunday, on this Second Sunday of Advent, the readings focus our attention on two key Advent themes: 1) the call to prepare ourselves through conversion, and 2) the call to wait in hope for a kingdom of peace. Obviously, both themes are interrelated. In the Gospel of this Sunday, John the Baptist announces a message of repentance "for the Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand". John is the prophet Isaiah spoke of saying, "Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight". This is the real meaning of Advent, preparing ourselves for the Saviour who comes to bring the gift of peace for the world. That preparation is a call to conversion; to change so that we will be ready to welcome the Kingdom of peace into our hearts at Christmas; so that Christ may find a home in our hearts. The Liturgy of the Word therefore invites us to prepare ourselves spiritually, by being reconciled with God and with one another. That inner conversion should be so real that we are led to action; that we open our eyes to see the plight of the poor around us and to do something about it. The lesson we learn from the encounter between John the Baptist and some Jewish religious leaders is important. John underlines the importance of authentic spiritual reform – conversion. Genuine spiritual reform is always accompanied by action as evidence that we have truly been transformed by the Lord. That is why John the Baptist tells the Pharisee and the Sadducees to “Produce good fruit as evidence” of their repentance. In other words, the sign of our inner transformation shows itself in the life we live. It is not enough to be baptized. Beyond the strange clothes, grasshopper diet and harsh metaphors, John the Baptist attracted people by his own example all the way into the desert. John therefore had the authority to tell the people clearly, “do not presume”, but repent, reform, prepare. For John the Baptist, this meant literally turning around from the direction one is going.

The second theme, waiting in hope and trust for a kingdom of peace is found in the both the first and second readings. Isaiah prophesies that out of the line of David would come a king who would be a different kind of king. “Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.” That king would be nothing but just, for He will establish justice and peace. That peace would be so great and genuine that natural enemies in animal kingdom like the wolf and the lamb would lie down next to one another, a beautiful image of harmony among God’s creation. That is the kingdom of peace John the Baptist was preparing the people for when he said, “prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” The central point in John’s message of conversion is justice and social reform: transforming “structures of sin” as an important aspect of preparing “a way for the Lord”, and making his paths straight, so that God’s kingdom may be established; so that Christ may find an eager welcome when He comes. Advent ushers in the arrival of that kingdom. That is what we hope for. Paul reminds us that our God is a God of endurance and encouragement and as people of hope we must never give up until all is realized in Christ. The message of this Sunday may be summed up in 3 points: 1) The readings reflect the meaning behind the lighting of the Second Candle on the Advent Wreath, signifying our need for repentance and calling us to reform our lives. 2) We are called to be reconciled with God and with one another; to live in genuine peace and harmony with one another; 3) That reconciliation and acceptance of God’s mercy will certainly lead to the kingdom of peace we all await when Christ comes; the kingdom of peace starts with me when I am humble enough to be totally reconciled with God and with others.

©2010 John S. Mbinda
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