December 10, 2023 — Second Sunday of Advent
IS 40:1-5, 9-11; PS 85:9-14; 2 PT 3:8-14; MK 1:1-8
Today’s readings on this Second Sunday of Advent can be summed up as equal parts comfort and warning for the Christian steward. We serve a merciful and patient God — in His kindness, He warns us that we will be called to make an account one day for the way in which we made use of the gifts He has given us.
The most precious gift He has given us is His own Son, Whose birth we are preparing to celebrate.
Our First Reading from Isaiah is filled with messages and images of the Father’s tender love for us. “Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end.” In other words, Israel’s time of exile and captivity is over and freedom is coming. Our freedom from the captivity of sin has come as well, through the saving power of Jesus.
In this passage we also read this description of the Father. “Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care.” What tender love He has for us. And it is out of this love that we are told to “prepare the way of the Lord. Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!”
St. Peter reiterates the loving kindness of the Father in our Second Reading today. He says that God “is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” Yet, in the same passage we receive this warning: “The Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar… and the earth and everything on it will be found out.”
How are we to assimilate these two truths — the merciful love of God and the responsibility that comes with the privilege of living as His disciple? St. Peter tells us we should conduct ourselves “in holiness and devotion” and that we should be “eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.” Indeed, this is the goal of our Advent “reset” — to return to (or intensify) living lives focused on Christ, in gratitude for all He has done for us.
Our Gospel passage from Mark takes up the cry of Isaiah from the First Reading, this time through the prophet John the Baptist. John instructs us just as Isaiah did to “prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” In practical terms, this means that we Christian stewards must make good use of the gift of time we have been given this Advent season. Let’s be sure to get to Confession, prioritize a daily reading the of Scriptures, and reach out to someone in need with a word of comfort or an act of service.
In this way, we will honor both the mercy and justice of our God, and we will be prepared to celebrate the birth of Christ and give account for all His gifts to us.