December 7, 2014 – Second Sunday of Advent
This time of year, Advent and Christmas, is a time which brings many memories to most of us. Often memories inspired by this time of year are filled with warmth. Pope Benedict XVI, writing many years before he became the Holy Father, put it this way:
“Advent is concerned with that very connection between memory and hope which is so necessary to us as humans. Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us, namely, the memory of the God who became a child. This is a healing memory; it brings hope. The purpose of the Church’s year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the heart’s memory so that it can discern the star of hope.… It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope.” – Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Our readings during this season of hope should challenge us while at the same time bringing us that comfortable feeling of hope — hope in the Lord and hope in salvation. The first reading from the prophet Isaiah trumpets that good feeling, “Comfort, give comfort to my people, says my God.” We hear much from Isaiah during this season because he presents to us so much that is familiar with what we should feel during this season. In today’s reading Isaiah reminds us that we should “prepare the way of the Lord,” as well as using the phrase “glad tidings.” Any troubles we have can be removed by love. Our burdens are removed when our sins are pardoned. This is part of our Advent experience, or at least it should be. We are given the opportunity to renew, to redirect, and to reconcile ourselves with God. That is what we should be about.
St. Peter opens his discourse in the second reading with “Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day.” You do not have to be very observant to sense the anticipation of children for Christmas. The time does indeed seem to move slowly. Of course, their anticipation is based upon the secular celebrations of the season. Nevertheless, it is worth us noting that anticipation and excitement because it is the same exhilaration we should feel about the arrival of the Christ child. Peter continues later in this reading to say, “Therefore, beloved, since you await these things, be eager to be found without spot or blemish, before him, at peace.” This is a time of hope, but it is also a time for us to renew and reconcile. And, yes, as St. Peter reminds us, we are indeed beloved.
Our Gospel reading is appropriately the first eight verses of the Gospel of Mark. St. Mark echoes Isaiah as he proclaims to us, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” Advent is a time of preparation. That preparation must really occur in our hearts. It has often been said that stewardship is not a conversion of mind but a conversion of heart. That is the kind of conversion to which we are called during this Advent season. John the Baptist understood that the Baptisms he performed were merely a prelude to the real Baptism with the Holy Spirit. That Baptism, brought to us by Christ, is where we find salvation through repentance.