9 December 2007, Second Sunday of the Advent

 

Is 11:1-10; Rm 15:4-9; Mt 3:1-12

Today is the second Sunday of Advent. As we continue to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ during the Advent Season, we are told to “Prepare the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight.”  Advent means waiting. We have three fold waiting during this season. First we await the Lord who has already come in history and recollect his presence in the Christian community. He the God-man who is present with us in our brothers and sisters and we seek him. We prepare ourselves for his coming at the end of times. Finally we get ready for his coming into us in the daily Eucharistic mystery as our food and drink.

Why do we wait? We wait if we love some one. If a friend of ours is coming we are ready to spend or waste out time on him because we love him. It is like the watchman who is faithful to the master. He will keep awake the whole night and keep watch.  No one may come and in colloquial terms, “not even a mouse passed that way,” and still the watch man keeps awake to see that the master is not robbed.  So also is our advent waiting that is filled with love of Jesus who is going to come.

Today’s Reading from the Gospel of Matthew began by telling us that Saint John the Baptist proclaimed a baptism of repentance in the wilderness of Judea. In the desert of Judea, there is a steep slope that falls from the central ridge of the country to the valley of the Jordan and the Dead Sea. According to Catholic tradition baptism in the Jordan indicates that John the Baptizer preached near the river, most likely not far from Jericho.  John’s message was one of repentance in preparation for the Kingdom of Heaven that was immediate.  It is the same message that Jesus proclaimed when He began His ministry in Galilee. “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.” There is the immediacy, urgency and security in the message. When the great prophet Isaiah prophesied a forerunner who would be crying out in the wilderness, he was clearly making reference to John the Baptist.  He was telling them to be prepared and ready. It seems we are all worried and we have no confidence and are scared. We run helter shelter and lack that serenity that is needed to receive him. We look for the trust and security in him and will certainly receive it if only wait for him.

A pastor tells a real story of storm when he was flying in a plane. Repeated announcements came about the possibility of a storm. All the refreshments, meals were delayed. All the passengers were nervous and started to pray. And when the storm broke cracks of thunder could be heard even above the roar of the engines.  Lightening lit up the darkening skies, and within moments that great plane was like a cork tossed around on a celestial ocean.  One moment the airplane was lifted on terrific currents of air; the next, it dropped as if it were about to crash. Then the Pastor observed something special. He saw a girl to whom the storm meant nothing.  She had tucked her feet beneath her as she sat on her seat and was reading a book. Everything within her small world was calm and orderly. Sometimes she closed her eyes, then she would read again; then she would straighten her legs, but worry and fear were not in her world. When the plane was being buffeted by the terrible storm, when it lurched this way and that, as it rose and fell with frightening severity, when all the adults were scared half to death, that marvelous child was completely composed and unafraid.” The minister could hardly believe his eyes. It was not surprising therefore, that when the plane finally reached its destination and all the passengers were hurrying to disembark, he lingered to speak to the girl whom he had watched for such a long time. Having commented about the storm and behavior of the plane, he asked why she had not been afraid.  The sweet child replied with a smile, “Sir, my Dad is the pilot, and he is taking me home.” There was total confidence and trust.

If St. John were here today, he would have no problem preparing himself during the Advent Season. To him, prayer and fasting was part of his life. In humility, John wore a garment of camel’s hair that was held together by a belt around his waist. His food consisted of locusts and wild honey. Surely, if he was here today, he would put us to shame by the way we live.

At the end John the Baptist gives them hope.  “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I will be coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Baptism of fire, it can be interpreted as receiving the Holy Spirit in the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. As we “prepare the way of the Lord” in our lives, we are called to review the status of our disposition towards the grace of God the Father that is manifested through the purifying fire of the Holy Spirit. Our final goal is Jesus coming into the world at Christmas and we await his coming with hope and expectation. May the Lord come into our lives and make us persons ready to receive him waiting to receive him, confident, steadfast and secure in his love.

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