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Dr. John Lee
December 7, 2014 2nd Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11; 2 Peter 3:8-14; Mk 1:1-8 St. Pius X 2014
Biblical scholars believe that the part of the book of Isaiah that begins with today's reading was written during the Babylonian exile. Through the first part of Isaiah, the prophet again and again warned his people of Israel that sin only leads to disaster, that when we stop relying on God and when we abandon His ways, only bad things will happen. And bad things, horrific things have happened to God's chosen people. Their nation is in ruins, their temple is destroyed and they are abandoned slaves in a foreign land. And even more, they realize that they have brought it upon themselves. They have begun to fear that this time, God has really had enough, to fear that God has abandoned them.
But if they believe that, they still do not really know God.
For He does not delight in our misery, He does not delight in the evil that we bring upon ourselves when we give in to sin. No, rather He uses even that to draw us back to Him. Our regrets, our sadness, our suffering are only an occasion to draw us back, an occasion to remind us that we are made for Him and that our only happiness is in Him. No person, no thing can replace Him. And He really wants us to be happy with Him and with each other.
And so He raises up another prophet, Isaiah, to once more reassure his people, and to promise that salvation will come to them. "Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem" and, "See, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; His reward is with him [...] He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms" and earlier " A voice cries out: In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill will be made low".
Although the last quote was originally understood to refer to God bringing his people home from the exile, Christians understood Isaiah's words to refer to Jesus. John the Baptist exhorted the people "Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight." He calls the people to turn from their sins, and so the gospel tells us, the people, confessing their sins, were baptized by John in the river Jordan.
Advent is a time, when we should prepare for his coming. Inevitably, we tend to lose our focus on the things of God, and give in to our habits and temptations, sometimes in big ways, sometimes in small. And so Advent is a good time to refocus, to examine how we are working on our relationship with the Lord our God, to take advantage of the graces of the sacrament of Reconciliation.
To help with that, many parishes will offer additional penance services during the coming two weeks before Christmas. Take advantage of this gift.
I close with a word on the letter of Peter. As you know, one of the difficulties for the early Church was that they expected Jesus to come back very soon, and He didn't. And so Peter writes to reassure them that Jesus will come, because our time is not God's time. He tells us that God wants as many people to be saved as possible, and so God waits so that many, many more can be with Him in heaven.
But the day will come, and it will come suddenly, so we must be always ready.
I've said this to you before, that I'm not really concerned with the end of the world. All the end of the world means is that the last of us will all go together, What really matters to me is the day that the Lord will say, "That's it, you've had enough time, your life is over." And that day, as we all know, we cannot predict. I'm always grateful that He gives me another day, and always a little ashamed that I have made so little use of all the time He has given me already.
So let us pay a little extra attention to Him during these days of Advent and ask Him to continue to soften our hard hearts that we may return to Him some of the love that He pours on us.
-Fr Joseph Schuck S.J.