2nd Sunday of Advent: Year C.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“He Comes To Bring Salvation To Every Person.”
The readings of today speak of the merciful interventions of God in favour of humankind.
In the first reading God’s salvation is manifested through the return of the exiled Jews to their beloved Jerusalem.
In the second reading the apostle refers to the merciful intervention of God when he tells us of the ‘Day of the Lord’, that is, of his coming into the life of each person.
Luke, in the Gospel reading, explains how the promises of salvation made by the prophets become true. He tells us: “It all began when the word of God was addressed to a man named John, son of Zechariah, in the desert” and he also tells us the exact historical period when this took place.
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.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally 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. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love 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.
“Allow the Spirit of God to break the chains that keep us from understanding and accepting the word of God.”
The reading compares the city of Jerusalem to an aggrieved widow that had her children snatched from her arms by brutal violence: she is sitting down grief-stricken, wearing her mourning clothes and refusing all comfort. What historical period is all this referring to? It is the time the Babylonians had invaded Israel, devastating it and deporting its inhabitants. Jerusalem, like a mother, had watched them as they left in chains, led by cruel soldiers; she was convinced that she was not going to see them again.
Many years passed. The period of mourning was a long one, but one day a prophet appears and addresses the aggrieved city and announces the great news: Jerusalem, your period of mourning is over! Take off your tattered clothes, put on a resplendent cloak, the Lord is about to crown you with a diadem of glory, and all creatures under the sky will see your beauty!
One of the great prophets of the exile was Jeremiah and his secretary was a man named Baruch. Together they assisted the people in re-imagining themselves as God’s people. Baruch offers all of us stirring images of hope: a people taking off their misery like clothing to be exchanged for the glad rags of celebration. Peace and justice become their heritage after servitude. Forests lend their shade as a desert people make their way back home, and fragrant trees make the journey pleasant.
For the Jewish people who were newly returned to Israel from their exile in Babylon, things were not as rosy as they had expected them to be. Many times they were tempted to give up the task of rebuilding Jerusalem.
What price would we be willing to pay for the road back to liberation? For the Israelites in exile in Babylon, the price was tshuvah, or turning. They had to turn from their service to idols, wealth and injustice and turn again to the ‘One’ true God. If salvation depended on the Israelites, there would certainly be little hope of recovery, but the prophet is telling them that God will raise them up once again from their sorrowful state. They too, like Jerusalem, will be turned into splendid ‘cities’ and called ‘places where peace is founded on justice, kingdoms of glory coming from the fidelity to the Lord’. They will not just retouch their appearances; they will be clothed in new clothes, a symbol of a new and happy life.
If this miracle is to take place in our lives as well, we must let God flatten the mountains and cliffs in our lives, fill up our valleys that keep us far from him and the barriers we have built up to isolate us from our brothers and sisters. Who are the prophets among us who help us to re-imagine ourselves as the people of God and lead us in the great turning of our lives to freedom? Advent is telling us that the Lord is coming to do just such work of salvation. What should we do to welcome him?
The Psalm is one of the groups of psalms sung by pilgrims travelling to Jerusalem. They remember the joy of deliverance from exile. They pray for God’s goodness to give them good rains and plentiful harvests.
Philippians 1:3-6, 8-11.
Paul praises God for all he has accomplished at Philippi, the first Christian community in Europe. It is a generous community, he says, and has even helped the gospel announcers financially; it leads an honest and simple life and fills his apostle’s heart with satisfaction and joy. Before turning to God for his needs he feels he must express his interior emotion for such an abundant grace. He declares his affection for those so dear to him “with the warm longing of Christ Jesus”.
In the second part, Paul beseeches God to let the Philippians grow more and more in the love and understanding of what is really good and according to the Gospel. Shouldn’t this beautiful prayer be applied also to our own community? Christ is the inspiration of all Paul’s efforts and he prepares his converts for the ‘Day of Christ’, which has replaced the prophetic Day of the Lord (Am. 5:18).
The way the Advent readings prepare us for Christmas seems like walking backwards. Last Sunday we focussed on the ‘Second Coming of Jesus’ and this Sunday’s Gospel focusses on the life and ministry of John the Baptist, as he gets ready to welcome the Messiah at any time he should appear. The oppressive political situation at the time had heightened the desire for a Saviour. John warns them that any serious preparation would have to entail a preparation of the heart in a radically new way. That change of heart is symbolized by agreeing to be baptized in order to have sins forgiven.
By locating John’s call to begin his ministry so precisely in the events of the secular and religious history of his time, Luke shows that something definite is taking place. God is intervening in history in a unique way and the people have to be prepared to welcome the long-awaited Messiah. The appearance of John the Baptist on the scene means that the end of the period of expectancy is almost over and the time of the Messiah is about to begin. John the Baptist is the link between the ‘Old and the New Testaments’. John helps the people to be ready to receive the Messiah by inviting them to be baptized in the river Jordan.
It was across this river that they originally entered into the ‘Promised Land’; it is now a place to enter into the ‘Era of the Messiah’. John administered the baptism to those who accepted their own sins and their need of God and wanted to be forgiven. Baptism is still the first of the three sacraments of ‘Initiation’ into the family of God, followed by Confirmation and the Eucharist. Our Baptism is then an external expression of ‘dying to the old self of sin’ and the determination to ‘rise and live a new risen life with Jesus’ who is victorious over sin and death (Rom. 6).
Luke sums up John’s message by quoting the cry of a nameless prophet in the Book of Isaiah: “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘prepare the way for the Lord, make his paths straight…. all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” The wilderness theme has a rich history in the Scriptures. It was to the wilderness that the people would come to hear God’s word proclaimed by him. The wilderness was a lonely place that invited people to leave behind the distractions of daily life in order to find God. In it John the Baptist fasted, prayed and waited. The wilderness was a place of purification and waiting.
Advent could be a journey to the wilderness for us too. It is a reflective season during which we are challenged to face up to the evil in ourselves, to repent, and to wait for God to touch us with his love and graces. Advent is our period of ‘Purification and Waiting’ for the coming of our Saviour. Luke gives us basic assurance about the future. In Jesus, God’s plan of salvation takes final shape. In Jesus, the mercy, compassion, power and glory of God shine out as never before.
Our usual difficulty and complaint, ‘that it’s too much trouble’, finds its answer in today’s Gospel: “Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth.” For those who hear the Lord’s invitation, God promises to go ahead of them on the journey and smooth out the difficulties. All we need is to follow in the Way, in the Truth and the Life of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Luke gives us basic assurance about the future. Through the Spirit, Jesus’ work continues. God fulfils his promises, and a new and everlasting day dawns in Jesus.
Advent is also to help us prepare ourselves to celebrate the birth of Jesus in a meaningful way. The commercial world proposes Christmas preparation in terms of material gifts. But without the preparation at the deeper level of the heart and the desire to be reconciled to God and to each other, Christmas will remain just another occasion to have good parties and fun for all who can afford it and then to continue living as before.
In this time of Advent we are aided by the Church to grasp the true meaning of the perpetual longing that lies deep in the hearts of all people. Through the liturgy we will be aided in this quest by the three great figures of Advent, ‘Mary our Mother’, ‘John the precursor’ and ‘Isaiah the prophet’.
Advent might be a good occasion to celebrate God’s love and forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We are never alone when we respond to God’s challenge to grow spiritually!
‘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 C, we reflect on …
Sun. … In Sunday’s first reading, the prophet Baruch encourages the Jews to be faithful to their religious traditions and roots. Through changing lifestyles in a fast moving world have we, too, in many ways become separated from our faith, half-heartedly living a modified and convenient faith that has become diluted with additions and omissions from the world?
Mon. … The false promises of this world, which continuously bombard us through the various popular ‘communications media’ can tempt us into ‘spiritual exile’ and eventually into ‘spiritual Diaspora’. We need to remain part of the ‘Vine’ the ‘Mystical Body of Christ’ in order to have the strength to remain true to our original religious roots.
Tues. … The Jews in exile turned from their service to ‘idols’, wealth and injustice for their liberation. To where, to what and to whom are we looking for our liberation, God, or the riches and pleasures of the world? God wishes to give all of us the gift of salvation. Are we willing to turn away (tshuvah) from our false gods and open up our hearts to the Lord? Are we prepared to break down the barriers that we have built up that separate us from God and our neighbour?
Wed. … God gives us all abundant graces, which in his ‘divine wisdom’ is what we need for our present state of life. Do we recognize these gifts and talents he has given us or are we blinded by the visions of what we think we need and desire? Like St. Paul let us, through love and prayer, begin to understand the true meaning of life when it is lived according to the Gospel.
Thur. … Today, the subtle distortion of the ‘truth’ under the guise of ‘so called human rights’ and ‘freedom of thought’ and the importance of being ‘politically correct’ seems to be highly fashionable. Therefore the need for the Saviour to return this Advent to come into our hearts and inspire us to read the ‘Truth’ in his Gospel is becoming more and more urgent.
Frid. … We all need a place where we can leave behind the distractions of daily life and to find peace in God. We need to find that ‘spiritual wilderness’, a place of ‘purification and waiting’. We can find this in our ‘quiet place’ or in our ‘Chapel of Adoration’. It is a place of silence, where we can experience the true presence, love and healing of God.
Sat. … This Advent let us become more pro-active in our faith. God challenges us to face up to the evil in ourselves and to repent and wait for his healing touch through his love and his graces. He has given us the ‘Sacrament of Reconciliation’ to do just that. In the silence of our ‘quiet place’, we will hear the Lord’s invitation to allow him to intervene in our lives and lead us in the ‘Way’!
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Almighty God and Father, the people of Israel were encouraged to be faithful to their religious traditions and roots. We pray, Lord, for Your grace and Your guidance during this second week of Advent to become more proactive in our faith and to renew our tarnished relationship with You through the many ways You have made available to us.
You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group. Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.