December 8, 2013 – Second Sunday of Advent
“The one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals.” (Matthew 3:11) With these prophetic words John the Baptist announces the coming of Jesus Christ. In fact, immediately after that statement Jesus comes to John to be baptized, and His earthly ministry begins.
It is fitting on this Second Sunday of Advent that the readings proclaim the coming of Jesus, as we prepare for that coming every day and every week. The first reading from Isaiah contains the prophecy of this new king, descended from David. It also alerts us to what is to follow directly in Isaiah—a detailed list of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Those gifts could be considered a check list for both stewardship lives and for Advent as well: wisdom; understanding; counsel; courage; knowledge, piety; and fear of the Lord. The reading from Isaiah opens with the phrases “a shoot will sprout” and “a bud will blossom.” That not only refers to the coming Messiah, but it also reminds us that Advent is a time for new life, a new way of looking at things.
In his letter to the Romans St. Paul prompts us to remember the prophecy related in the first reading. In addition, Paul calls us to be reconciled with the Lord and with one another … “think in harmony with one another.” Is there a better time than now to reconcile with those with whom relationships might be strained? It is often said that stewardship is a form of love. Now is the time to show that love for others, even those that might be a challenge for us. Now is the time to reach out and renew our relationships. Mother Teresa may have said it best: “Love begins by taking care of the closest ones — the ones at home.”
Matthew’s Gospel is powerful and clear. John the Baptist begins his message by calling out “Repent.” We may read this as an order to rid ourselves of sin, but it is much more than that. Entire treatises have been written about this word “repent.” Based upon the Greek word metanoia it has a deeper meaning than just “repent.” It might be better translated as “Change your life.” It is the first word we hear from John the Baptist. Interestingly, when Jesus begins His ministry (Matthew 4:17) He, too, begins by saying “Reform your lives.”
To be good stewards requires us to look at life differently, to in effect change our lives. Advent is the perfect time to begin that journey if we have not already. Even if we have begun to live lives of stewardship each day provides a new challenge and a fresh conversion. We are called by Christ to have hearts which produce fruit but that cannot happen unless we are constantly ready for the necessary change, the reforms, the repentance. Also, like John the Baptist, we must approach the Lord and all others with humility (“I am not worthy to carry His sandals.”). We are approaching that wonderful “coming,” that birth and we must remember how humble it was — born in a crude stable, in a manger (an animal food trough), among shepherds. Advent is a good time for us to discern whether we follow God because we want Him to love us or do we follow Him because we already know He loves us.