December 8, 2019 — Second Sunday in Advent
IS 11:1-10; PS 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17; ROM 15:4-9; MT 3:1-12
As we begin the second week of Advent, let us recall our motto for this season: we are climbing God’s holy mountain. Our readings give us inspiration and focus for this journey towards holiness.
Our first reading from the Prophet Isaiah continues the theme of journey towards the holy mountain, the Kingdom of God. The prophet gives us a beautiful glimpse of this mountain, where Christ will reign forever. It will be a place of peace, justice, and harmony among all God’s creatures. “There shall be no harm or ruin in all my holy mountain… [This] dwelling shall be glorious.”
Our second reading, from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, encourages us to focus our preparation in this way: “Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God.”
How has Christ welcomed us? By becoming one of us through His incarnation, one with us through the Eucharist, and freeing us from our sins through His death and resurrection so that we can finally live with him for all eternity in Heaven.
The idea of welcoming others as Christ welcomes us is the essence of Christian hospitality. This kind of hospitality involves seeing people as God sees them and being ready to invite others into our lives whenever and however God asks; it is an attitude we take with us wherever we go, whether at home, at the parish, or out and about at work, school, or in the community.
This kind of hospitality is a vital aspect of stewardship living. Fully embraced, it has the power to transform our lives and the lives of those who experience it through us.
The practice of Christian hospitality is also a way for us stewards to answer the call of John the Baptist in our Gospel passage from Matthew. John has the honor of preparing the people for the arrival of the Savior and the coming of the Kingdom of God. His words apply just as much to us in our own Advent preparations today. John says, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” And he recalls the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”
Though it may not seem obvious at first, there is a definite connection between repentance and effective hospitality. By recognizing and repenting of our own sins, we become aware of our need for a Savior and his great mercy towards us. With this awareness, and the gratitude that to God that a comes with it, we are freed to see the good in others and welcome them into our lives just as Christ has welcomed us.
How can we put all of this into action? How can we make repentance a regular part of our everyday lives? We can make an “examination of conscience” a daily part of our prayers, thanking God for the times we said “yes” to Him, and asking forgiveness for the times we chose our own will. We can (and should) go to Confession this Advent and then make it a regular part of our “Ordinary Time” too. We can reach out to a family member or friend where there is distance or discord and make peace.
As we “straighten the paths” of our own hearts and minds, we become more hospitable people, better stewards of God’s grace and mercy, far more open and ready to invite others into our lives, homes, and parish. We climb farther up God’s holy mountain and attract others to join us on the path toward holiness. This is preparation fitting for our merciful Savior.