December 10, 2017 — Second Sunday of Advent
There is a well-worn phrase that seems to come into play at this time of year: “Shop until you drop.” This time of year seems to entice us to get even busier, make our lives more hectic, fill our lives up with possible various events at the office, at our children’s schools, even here at church to a certain extent.
However, Advent is really a time when we need to step back and perhaps slow down a bit, to become more pensive and thoughtful in our approach. That may be why we hear in our readings today that St. John the Baptist was a voice “crying out in the desert.” And what was John’s consistent message? “Prepare the way of the Lord.” That is what we hear throughout Holy Scripture on this Second Sunday of Advent.
We receive several appropriate reminders in our readings today. As just referenced the prophet Isaiah paves the way for the coming of the Messiah and for His messenger St. John the Baptist. Isaiah’s remarkable foresight states, “A voice cries out: in the desert prepare the way of the Lord.” Scholars tend to divide Isaiah into three sections and the final section, which is sometimes called the “Messianic” section begins with today’s reading from Chapter 40.
The Way of the Lord might parallel our own lives and most certainly our lives and efforts during this Advent season. This is a word picture that likens our lives to a road. To build a road improvements have to be made, and whatever might be wrong needs to be corrected. For us at this time the real preparation must occur in our hearts. Isaiah goes on to indicate that when the way is prepared, the glory of God will be revealed (“Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together.”) The true glory of the Lord is revealed to every prepared heart. This is a time to prepare our hearts for the way of the Lord.
We have heard multiple times previously that God sees things differently than we do. That is an approach used by St. Peter in his Second Letter, our Second Reading. There are two letters from Peter included in the New Testament. Both are considered to have been written in Rome and addressed more to Gentiles than to Jews. Peter specifically lists a relatively broad audience in his First Letter. This Second Letter was most likely written not long before Peter is crucified by the Emperor Nero.
When Peter says in today’s reading that “with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day,” he is stating the obvious. God sees time with a perspective we lack. For the Lord all time is against the back-drop of eternity. As often as we may hear that, we are very much trapped in our own perception of time. It is almost impossible for us to fully appreciate the reality that we will endure in eternity, which is a time longer than this world will be here. Peter prompts us to realize that our role in this life is to seek holiness. That is what preparing the way of the Lord entails.
Since we are entering a cycle for this liturgical year where most of our Gospels are drawn from St. Mark, it is fitting that today’s Gospel is the very start of that Gospel Book. It begins with the simple statement, “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God.” It then reiterates what we hear in the First Reading from Isaiah: that John the Baptist was sent to “prepare the way of the Lord” and we are to do the same. We are to live our lives first and foremost by seeking the Kingdom of God. Advent is all about discovering how we can do that and making whatever changes we must make in our lives to accomplish that.
Every word in Holy Scripture has some importance. When St. Mark proclaims that what he is writing, and what we are about to hear, is the “Gospel of Jesus Christ,” it tells us how important it is. Most are aware that the word “Gospel” meant “Good News.” Fewer are conscious of the fact that in Roman times it had another meaning and translation — “Glad tidings.” When we hear that term, many may think of Christmas and the birth of Christ. However, glad tidings or good news also includes Christ’s saving grace and death. It goes back to what we have been hearing in recent weeks that it is time to prepare for the coming of the Lord. Part of that preparation is to prepare the way of the Lord, especially within each of us. That is what we need to be doing now.