2nd Sunday of Advent, Year A
Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17 (7)
December 4, 2022
Our gospel passage today comes from the time just before Jesus began his public ministry during his first coming. It speaks of preparation. We can use this passage to reflect on our readiness for the Second Coming.
John the Baptist came preaching a message, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” It was not a call to fear and dread. The message came as fulfillment of the prophecies of a long-awaited Messiah. Thus, it should be seen with hope. We are called to repent so that we may share in the good things to come.
There are symbols in the passage that might seem strange to us. John the Baptist preaches in the desert. Why the desert? Going into the desert is seen as stepping aware from the things of this world to focus on the things of God.
John the Baptist “wore clothing made of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist.” This recalls the dress worn by the prophet Elijah (2 Kings 1:8). John is sent as a prophet to “prepare the way of the Lord.”
John the Baptist ate “locusts and wild honey.” It was a simple diet that indicated a life of poverty, setting aside worldly pleasures.
Many people were coming to John to be baptized in the Jordan River. The Jordan River held great significance for the Jews as the place where they crossed over into the promised land at the end of the Exodus.
John’s baptism was a simple baptism, only for the forgiveness of sins. The forgiveness of sins is not insignificant. I say “only” because, as John the Baptist tells us, Jesus inaugurates a Baptism that is so much more.
John’s call to repentance is a call for us to seek God’s forgiveness of our sins. When a person is baptized, any sins they committed before their Baptism are forgiven. However, the forgiveness of sins does not end at Baptism. The Lord gives us a Sacrament just for the forgiveness of sins.
It is the Sacrament of Reconciliation where we can confess our sins and receive God’s forgiveness, where God makes straight our paths. It is a gift. God doesn’t have to forgive us. He wants to. Why confess to a priest? God gives us this Sacrament as a means to experience his grace. For many it is a forgotten sacrament. I encourage you to seek it out.
John’s call for repentance could be received in fear of punishment. Probably understand, the scriptures encourage us to seek God’s forgiveness with hope.
God intends to bring about a renewal of his kingdom. Our first reading speaks of the one who will come from the “stump of Jesse” who the “spirit of the LORD” will rest upon. It speaks of the radical change to come when “the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb.”
We might wonder about that radical change. These words are given as an encouragement of good things to come. They give us hope.
What is the last thing in the list of the gifts of the Holy Spirit? It says, “his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.” How are we to delight in fear?
I don’t know about you but when I hear the word “fear”, I think of something that scares me. I don’t “fear” God in that way. Don’t misinterpret me. We should fear the consequences of our sins but the Lord loves us and is eager to forgive us.
So, what is meant by “fear of the Lord”? We can (and should) stand in great “awe” of the Lord. He is all-knowing and all-powerful (hence the fear). He is also all-loving. Thus, our “awe of the Lord.”
God loves us so much as to send his Son to die for us. Jesus loves us so much that He gives us the Eucharist as his Body and Blood to feed us.
Next week we will have a Holy Hour with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament where we can come and sit in “awe of the Lord” present in the Blessed Sacrament, the consecrated host, that will be placed on the altar as we pray together and in silence.
John the Baptist calls the people to “Produce good fruit as evidence” of their repentance. If we want to see the radical change prophesized in Isaiah (ex. “the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb”), it starts with us allowing God to change us. We need to repent, confessing our sins, so that God might be at work in us.
John the Baptist was a great servant of the Lord. He was also a humble man. He said to the people, “I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
Of course, it is Jesus of whom John the Baptist speaks.
Following Jesus’ example, we are baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Remember the list of the gifts of the Spirit foretold in Isaiah?
Baptized in the Holy Spirit, we receive each of these gifts. This helps us live as Christ teaches.
As times, we fall short. That’s when we are to confess our sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
We need strength. We need to come to Eucharist every week, to eat the Body and Blood of Jesus.