Sunday December 5 2021
Second Sunday of Advent
1st Reading: Baruch 5:1-9
God will level out a highway for the exiles to return
The Lord says this:
Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem,
and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God.
Put on the robe of the righteousness that comes from God;
put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting;
for God will show your splendour everywhere under heaven.
For God will give you evermore the name,
“Righteous Peace, Godly Glory.”
Arise, O Jerusalem, stand upon the height;
look toward the east,
and see your children gathered from west and east
at the word of the Holy One,
rejoicing that God has remembered them.
For they went out from you on foot,
led away by their enemies;
but God will bring them back to you,
carried in glory, as on a royal throne.
For God has ordered that every high mountain
and the everlasting hills be made low
and the valleys filled up, to make level ground,
so that Israel may walk safely in the glory of God.
The woods and every fragrant tree
have shaded Israel at God’s command.
For God will lead Israel with joy,
in the light of his glory,
with the mercy and righteousness that come from him.
Responsorial: Psalm 125
R./: The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
When the Lord delivered Zion from bondage,
it seemed like a dream.
Then was our mouth filled with laughter,
on our lips there were songs. (R./)
The heathens themselves said:
‘What marvels the Lord worked for them!’
What marvels the Lord worked for us!
Indeed we were glad. (R./)
Deliver us, O Lord, from our bondage
as streams in dry land.
Those who are sowing in tears
will sing when they reap. (R./)
They go out, they go out, full of tears
carrying seed for the sowing:
they come back, they come back, full of song,
carrying their sheaves. (R./)
2nd Reading: Philippians 1:3-6, 8-11
Unity, perseverance and witness to Christ and the Gospel
I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.
For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
Gospel: Luke 3:1-6
Prepare a way for God, through sincere repentance
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert.
He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
“The voice of one crying out in the desert:
“Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”
Good times coming
We are in a dark time of the year. The mornings are dark and the evenings darker still. Light is scarce, and we have yet to reach the shortest day of the year. It is within that darkness that we have lit our second Advent candle today. The days may be getting shorter, but our Advent wreath is getting brighter. The brightness of our Advent readings draws us toward the great feast of light, Christmas, the birthday of the one who is the light of the world. With the birth of Jesus, the light of God’s love shines out. In today’s first reading, the prophet Baruch looks forward to a day when ‘God will guide Israel in joy by the light of his glory.’
Advent is a hopeful season. Hope is an important virtue, deeper than simple optimism of temperament. We can feel optimistic about all kinds of things, but, strictly speaking, the true object of hope is union with God. We are hopeful God can bring life out of death, light out of darkness. It is above all in Winter that we need hope. And we pray for anyone going through dark days at the present time, for people insecure in their jobs or their health or their home life, and displaced people and refugees, who wait at barbed wire borders, hoping to get to a better life.
The second reading (from Philippians) came out of a very dark situation. St Paul. was chained in a Roman prison, probably in Ephesus. And he he wasn’t sure of getting out of prison alive. Yet the letter is the most hopeful and joyful of all Paul’s letters. It shows that one can remain hopeful even when things look dark. From his prison cell, Paul is grateful for his friendship with the Philippians and is hopeful for their future. He cheerfully recalls their progress so far as a local church. They were no more perfect than other people, but Paul chooses to celebrate their generosity. He praises them for helping to spread the good news from the days they first heard it.
We can be tempted in dark times to look at everything with bleary eyes. Paul bids us to look at life, and, especially, at people with hopeful eyes, even in dark times. To see people through hopeful eyes makes us aware of the good in their lives. Let’s recognise what they have done rather than what they have failed to do. Paul hopes that God who began this good work among them would bring it to completion. He had high ideals about what people could become with God’s help.
Let’s see ourselves with hopeful eyes. God’s good work has only begun in us. We are a work in progress God will bring the good work to completion. We just need to co-operate with the working of grace. By the end of our life this work will be complete, and we will have reached ‘the perfect goodness which Jesus Christ produces in us’.
We are all Advent people
Poor old Advent. It gets stampeded. It is overrun. Who cares about Advent – it is only an unruly intruder on the way to Christmas. But it isn’t. Advent drags us back to basics. The very essence of humanity means patience. We can easily get overwhelmed by the ‘fast lane of life.’ We are in such a hurry. We want everything now. We rush from experience to experience. We can’t cope with the bigness of life. Stop. Look. Listen. The simple message of Advent is to glance back at the Jews, waiting for the Saviour to come. If we have (similar) feelings; we can feel with them. We can easily link up our own waiting in life, to their waiting.
Waiting for a child to be born. Waiting for day to come. Waiting for buses. Waiting for an appointment in a hospital. Waiting in A&E is a very good indicator of Advent. Waiting for the end of winter. Waiting for the sun to shine. Waiting to get well. Waiting for pain to go. Waiting to grow up. Waiting for visitors. But above all, it is learning not to live just in the present moment. It is stopping ourselves being addicted to the concerns of only today. Advent reminds us to be much bigger in our thinking. Look around. Stop. Think of the past. Look at nature. Look at the companions of life. Be grateful. Never be consumed by NOW. See the broader picture. . . (Seamus Ahearne).
Make his Paths Straight
During Advent we are meant, like the Baptist, to prepare the way for Jesus as our Saviour. We need to see what in our lives needs straightening out. The imagery of filling in the valleys and levelling hills is a call to care about justice for all God’s people. One could say that the Baptist called for a level playing field for all, so that everybody has fair access to the amenities of this world. He was against hoarding, dominance and aggression. Isaiah offers hope that “all people will see the salvation sent to us from our God.” God’s word has a message for me. I am to turn from my sins, and to prepare the way for him. I am to help ensure fair play and justice for others.
Filling valleys, levelling mountains, straightening the crooked road, preparing a pathway for the Lord. All this is our preparation for Christmas. Of course it involves decisions, and these decisions from of the realities of my life. God is always calling for a response. Responding to him is to become responsible.
Many parishes have a Penance Service during Advent. It may be called “Confession of sins without listing them” To some people, this seems too simple, too easy. But let’s not forget the purpose of the Penance Service. Sin has a community dimension. When I do wrong, I fail other people by failing to live up to my Christian vocation. The community is diminished by my sin, so there should be a community aspect to my repentance. So it’s right to make a public acknowledgement of my sinfulness and my need for the grace of God as part of my preparation for Christmas. In the season of peaceful good-will, we need to restate our good-will, and act on it. We try to do our part in making his paths straight!