2nd Sunday Of Advent – Year B.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“Conversion And The New World”.
In the first reading, the prophet invites the people of Israel, exiled in Babylon, to prepare to welcome the Lord who is coming to free them. Their state of slavery is about to end. God will save them, but they must, on their part, welcome this liberation, cross the desert, and begin a new life in a new land.
The Gospel continues this same theme. It is another prophet, John the Baptist, who now invites Israel to convert so that the Messiah may manifest himself and a new world may begin.
The second reading tells us that when we speak of the coming of the Lord we should not be looking for the date of the end of the world, but we must welcome the Lord who comes to create a new world.
Guide to ‘Live’ the Sunday Liturgy:
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
If at all possible, share this Bible Reflection time with a family member, a friend or someone you wish to bring to Christ. Jesus said in Mt. 18:20 – “For where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them.”
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests, bishops and Catholic theologians who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a ‘Prayer’ are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. With faith and perseverance, we will start to put into practice the Lord’s teachings; begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love, God’s will, and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator. Meditations and Prayer on the Reflections should be done daily – first thing in the morning and the last thing at night.
It may be necessary to pray and repeat the study of the Bible Readings and Commentaries more than once, or even on a daily basis, if you feel that you have not yet grasped the Lord’s special message for you.
“Ignorance of the Scriptures is ‘Ignorance of Christ’.”
Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11.
The verses in today’s first reading are at the very beginning of the second main section of the Book of Isaiah, the part known as the ‘Book of Consolation’ (chapters 40-55). These chapters are the work of the ‘Second Isaiah’ during the Babylonian exile. God’s people, or the most important part of God’s people, had been carried off into a foreign land. The Temple and holy city had been destroyed. The Israelites found themselves in the midst of an alien culture. Their identity was threatened and everything that was important to them seemed to have been taken away. Into this context of sadness and despair comes the voice of the prophet Isaiah, a voice that speaks out the message of God, a message of comfort and hope.
Our first reading consists of the first lines attributed to poet-prophet who encouraged the Israelites in exile: “Comfort, comfort, my people”, says your God, and the message is that Jerusalem’s ‘time of service is ended’. Notice how ‘Jerusalem’, ‘Zion’, and ‘Judah’ run like a theme through the reading: the city, the mountain, and the homeland that they had not seen for half a century, and whose very names must have exercised a strange and powerful call on the Babylonian exiles. The prophet invites the people of Israel, exiled in Babylon, to prepare to welcome the Lord who is coming to free them. Their state of slavery is about to end. God will save them, but they must, on their part, welcome this liberation, cross the desert, and begin a new life in a new land.
It is not, however, simply a matter of catching a camel-train home; as the prophet reminds them, a trackless desert separates them from the homeland that God has in mind for them, and so we hear the voice crying in the desert, ‘a clear way for YHWH, make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God’. Then comes the lovely vision in which all obstacles (‘every valley… every mountain’) being cleared away, and then ‘YHWH’s glory shall be revealed’. Now, suddenly, hills are no longer an obstacle, but a vantage-point from which ‘Zion’ and ‘Jerusalem’ can be a herald of good tidings’, and, confidently, ‘behold the Lord YHWH shall come in power’, and, in an expected image, ‘like a shepherd he will lead his flock’.
Sadly only a few heeded the prophet and returned to Jerusalem. The majority stayed behind in Babylon; they did not have either the courage or the strength to begin a new life. A Jewish writer said that the greatest danger of exile was not its harshness but its worldly lures and attractions.
In many ways we are like the Israelites in exile. We live in a society that is foreign and hostile to our most deeply held beliefs. The culture that surrounds us looks on religion as basically irrelevant to human existence. In a world that treasures success, self-assertion and independence we are called to build our lives on being subject to the Lord, on love to God and our neighbour and on humility. The world is constantly inviting us to travel paths different from the paths that a loving God has laid out for us.
And so the Lord speaks to us, “Don’t be afraid. I will forgive your sins. I will lead you home. I will take care of you. I am with you now and I will stay with you. Take comfort in my presence.” God is indeed a God of deliverance.
The psalmist knows all about Israel’s uncertainties, and so he proclaims, ‘I shall hear what YHWH our God will say, for he speaks peace to his people’, and (confident once more) ‘his rescue is close for those who fear him’, and then, in an echo of the first reading, ‘his glory shall dwell in our land’.
This is followed by the beautiful depiction, which we will encounter several times during Advent, of the embrace of ‘love and truth, justice and peace’. Suddenly the land is no longer a desert, but ‘truth shall spring up from the earth, and justice will look down from heaven’.
Ideally you have to live in a dry and desolate place to fully grasp the force of this image; but the message is quite clear: God is going to act.
2 Peter 3:8-14.
The early Christians were under the impression that the Lord would return to this world soon and on that day all his disciples would go and meet him, rising up into the sky in a long procession. When, after a few decades, this did not take place, they began to ask questions about the delay, and some even began doubting the truth of the promises of the future kingdom of God. When 2 Peter was written, false teachers were scoffing because the ‘Second Coming of Christ’ had not arrived. The unbelievers began making fun of their expectations: “What has happened to the promises of his coming? Since our fathers died, everything has gone on just as it did since the beginning of creation!”
The author explains the delay in two ways. Firstly, he proves from a Psalm that God’s concept of time differs from ours (Ps 90:4). Secondly, he recalls the prophetic teaching that the merciful God gives time for repentance. Christian faith looks to the future; the Second Coming has not been cancelled. He confirms the Gospel teaching in Matthew 24:43 and Paul’s teaching that Christ will come like a thief in the night. By using poetic terms from Jewish apocalyptic writings, he does not allow Christianity to cut itself off from its Jewish roots. Meanwhile, while we wait, we are to live lives that are pleasing to God.
The second reading also teaches us that the scriptures were written to give us hope from the past story of God’s deeds. Scripture is full of examples of people who did not give up hope and were eventually helped by God. Lectio Divina makes us familiar with what God did in the past so that we might discern what he is doing today. It also tells us that when we speak of the ‘Coming of the Lord’ we should not be looking for the date of the end of the world, but we must welcome the Lord who comes to create a new world. One of the virtues of Advent is hope: the courage to believe in God’s love even when the signs are to the contrary.
The Gospel continues this same theme. It is another prophet who now invites Israel to convert so that the Messiah may manifest himself and a ‘new world’ may begin. Today we read the opening statement of the Gospel of Mark. It tells us who Jesus is, namely the Messiah and Son of God. It also shows us how Jesus is the fulfilment of the promises God had made to his people through the prophets of the Old Testament. John the Baptist comes at the end of a long line of prophets who helped people to prepare for the ‘Coming of the Messiah’. John the Baptist’s message to us is that the preparation for the Messiah demands from us a radical change of life style. Old ways have to be abandoned. New ones adopted. In the Old Testament times the word ‘Gospel’ was used to announce a joyful event and good news. Mark’s ‘Good News’ is about the person of Jesus Christ, his life, death and Resurrection. It is also the ‘Good News’ that he brought. Jesus as a person, by his words and his deeds is ‘Good News’ for all times. ‘Gospel’ is sometimes used together with the words ‘to proclaim’. The ‘Good News’ has to be proclaimed to others. It cannot be kept a secret especially in the midst of oppression and rejection.
John the Baptist preaches a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. Repentance means more than just being sorry for something done wrong. It is a call for a complete turn-about. Repentance or conversion means to recognize that our present ways of life can lead to doom and not the life of union with God. One must decide to radically turn our lives around and to abandon old ways. As St Ignatius puts it: ‘Aim your life to know God more clearly, to love him more dearly and to follow him more nearly’.
John’s cry of making a complete turn-around fits well into the line of the prophets of old. Prophets have always pleaded with God’s people to turn their hearts back to God. John’s call is like the ‘final call’ before the long awaited time of the Messiah breaks in. This is how the prophet Malachi had described the role of the last prophet before the appearance of the Messiah.
During this time of Advent, the commercial world wants us to prepare for Christmas by buying more and more gifts. To truly prepare for the celebration of the ‘Birth of Jesus’ something more meaningful has to happen. We must truly change in our minds, our hearts and by our actions!
On the second Sunday of Advent we celebrate the ‘peace’ we find in Jesus Christ who is coming into our world.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in
the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the 2nd Sunday of Advent Year B, we reflect on …
Sun. … We too today find ourselves in the midst of an alien culture, a culture contrary to the kingdom of God. Have we fallen prey to the many secular cultures, which tempt to take us away from our faith and have us worshipping false gods? The message of the prophet still rings out today through the Scriptures treasured by our Church, and brings the message of God, a message of comfort, hope and peace to all in self-imposed exile.
Mon. … As the Lord leads the Israelites on their return from exile their road is made easy, so our return from our self-imposed exile is also made easy. Jesus shows us the ‘Way’. Advent brings us a new beginning, it is a gift of love and mercy from our Lord and Saviour. We need to begin rebuilding our lives based on the sound virtues and values in the teaching of the Scriptures and the Gospel.
Tues. … Sadly only a few heeded the prophet and returned to Jerusalem. The majority stayed behind in Babylon; they did not have either the courage or the strength to begin a new life. A Jewish writer said that the greatest danger of exile was not its harshness but its worldly lures and attractions. Does this apply to us?
Wed. … Scripture is full of examples of people who did not give up hope and were helped by God. The Virtues of Advent are Hope, Peace, Joy and Love: which gives us the courage to believe in God’s love and promises even when the worldly signs are to the contrary?
Thurs. … John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a ‘Baptism of Repentance’ for the forgiveness of sins. Today let us recall the ‘Promises of our Holy Baptism’ when our ‘Original Sins’ were forgiven and the ‘Gifts’ we received from the Holy Spirit when we became part of the ‘Mystical Body of Christ’. Are we making use of the ‘Gifts’? What ‘Fruits’ can we show?
Frid. … The beginning of Advent brings us the message of John the Baptist: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths!” Are our hearts burning with love for God and for each other as we prepare for the ‘Appearance of the Messiah’, or have our ears failed to hear the Baptist’s voice crying out in the desert? We need to remain attentive. Have we sufficiently changed our life-style so that it reflects a true follower of Christ?
Sat. … Repentance means more than just being sorry for something done wrong. It is a call for a complete turn-about. Repentance or true conversion means to wake up and recognize that our present lives can lead to doom and not to union with God. We must decide to radically turn our lives around and to abandon old ways.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Heavenly Father, we thank You for Your great Gift of Advent showing us how Jesus, the Messiah is the fulfilment of the promises You had made to Your people through the prophets of the Old Testament. Help us to remain attentive and with open hearts in prayerful expectation as we wait for the coming of the Messiah. In the silence of our ‘Prayer Place’ may we also hear the Baptist’s voice crying out in the ‘Desert of our Lives’ calling us to repentance.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.