Prepare the Way! 2nd Sunday of Advent
Sermon by Emmanuel Suntheni OSB – Second Sunday of Advent – Year B
Sermon and Christian Act In The Word
Theme: Eliminate all Obstacles and Prepare the Way!
Point of Reflection: Jesus continues to be present and active in human history, particularly in the lives of his followers. Today’s readings emphasize that some preparatory steps must be taken to make this presence effective and life-shaping. Isaiah calls for renunciation of fear, delusion, and doubt to effectively experience God’s power and faithful love. The author of 2 Peter argues for patience and trust, even if the Lord’s return does not appear to be a matter of the immediate future. Biblical readings of the Advent season call for adequate preparation for the encounter with the Lord. What must we do to prepare for the Lord? We need to eliminate the obstacles on our way.
First Reading: Isaiah 40:1–5, 9–11
Psalm: Psalm 85:9–14
Second Reading: 2 Peter 3:8–14
Gospel: Mark 1:1–8
Sermon (Reflection): The Gospel passage of today contains the very beginning of the Gospel of Mark which will be read in the course of this liturgical year. The evangelist begins his Gospel citing the words of the prophet Isaiah applied to the life and mission of John the Baptist. John was the “messenger” and “voice of one crying in the desert”, the voice “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”. Just like Isaiah, John was to prepare the people to encounter the coming Messiah. John did this by calling the people to a personal and moral conversion effected by turning away from sin and changing their life focus. Sin is always an obstacle that separates a person from God and “paralyzes” him or her in their relations with others. As Christians, do we have some obstacles which hinder us from receiving Christ?
Are we ready to discover our obstacles and clean our hearts for the Lord DURING THIS ADVENT SEASON?
Of course, John knew that in order to accept and respond to Jesus the people of Israel had to eliminate such obstacles. With these removed, the people would be open to receive Jesus who would then “baptise them with the Holy Spirit”. Repentance was thus an initial step towards a whole new life under the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit. John’s mission was successful as the “people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem” descended into the waters of the Jordan to receive John’s baptism. Apparently, the people realized the urgency of God’s message and did what was required to welcome Jesus into their world. What we all need as Christians is; repentance!
The second reading of today from 2 Peter tackles an important element related to the Lord’s coming. This letter was addressed to a community of believers in Asia Minor who have come under the influence of some teachers who denied that the second coming of the Lord (parousia) will ever take place. Since the expected arrival of the risen Lord was evidently delayed and the promised judgement over the evildoers had not as yet materialised, many Christians found their arguments convincing and, as a result, had lost hope that Christ would return; they began to question the truthfulness of the Lord’s promises and his words. Disillusionment and impatience prevented the community members from waiting patiently and faithfully for the Lord. The author of 2 Peter wrote to calm their fears and doubts. With what is happening in the world today, we can also be impatient thinking that the Lord is taking time to come back and redeem this world.
Nevertheless, the delay of the second coming of the Lord Parousia is motivated by God’s love and forbearance. By postponing Christ’s arrival God is giving ample opportunity for the wrongdoers to repent. Thus, instead of worrying about the apparent delay, the community members ought to make use of the available time to pursue a morally upright life of peace and purity, and to grow in their faith and charity as they wait patiently for the Lord’s return.
The first reading of today comes from the opening section of the second part of the Book of Isaiah, where the prophet announces the approaching deliverance of the Jewish people from the Babylonian exile. The prophets saw the great tragedy of Israel’s destruction and exile in 586 BC as a direct result of the godless lives of its leaders and people. Indeed, many saw it as God’s just punishment for the violation of the covenant; many thought that God had abandoned his people for good. Isaiah’s words of comfort offer a different perspective on the entire situation.
The prophet discloses that God entrusted him with the mission summarised in the words, “Comfort, O comfort my people”. As Christians, where do we get our comfort? Do we get our comfort in Jesus Christ or in worldly material things? As we prepare for the way for the Lord in our hearts, we need always seek the comfort for the Lord. The Lord must be born in our hearts and by doing so, we get the full comfort we need in peace.
How do we get the peace? the prophet in the first reading uses the image of an attentive shepherd to give us peace and this is one is he who “will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep”. This is the comfort we seek from the Lord
Christian Act in Word of God “Eliminate the obstacles and prepare the way for the Lord by cleaning our hearts!”
To save ourselves from being swallowed up by worldly obstacles and other human distractions, we have to keep in mind that every act has its own consequences and be mindful of what can enslave us. For example in our own families if we don’t listen to our parents, and relatives, and even clean our houses and surroundings, it leads us to separating ourselves from our families and friends, the break-up of relationships and even death for not being clean. Let us keep in mind that whenever we exile ourselves from God, we fall into slavery. We might have everything materially, but we still find ourselves unhappy. This sense of unhappiness is not coming from God but from our self-imposed exile. Let us prepare our hearts for the Lord by removing all the human obstacles.
Focus on Jesus’ abiding presence can keep us free from enslavement, it can free us from subjection to what has already claimed our lives. One way to make this happen is to remove the obstacle of mutual hostility. We are also called to make straight the roads linking parents to children, and children to parents and friends and neighbours.
As Christians we have one Lord, the one and only Lord whose coming we commemorate. One of the best ways to welcome him is to make our relationships with others right.
To keep ourselves clean from obstacles and opening up to Jesus’ presence in our hearts, we need patience. In the second reading we are encouraged never to lose hope in God and his Son. We have a way of measuring time which is different from God’s. Knowing that, we should never be tempted to lose hope in God because of the difficult situations that we live though or because our expectations are not met. This is true in our personal life, but also when it comes to political and social systems of our world. Being patient in such situations means not allowing ourselves to be affected by the evil they practice, but opposing it by a life of Christian virtue. By our patience, we bring about change. We cannot keep on expecting others to be the first to change; we ought to the ones to take the first step. By being proactive in this way and not giving up easily, we allow Jesus to be present in this world through us.
Action:I will remove all human obstacles which hinder me from receiving Christ.
Prayer: Almighty God through your son Jesus Christ remove all the human obstacles which will hinder us during this advent season in preparing the way for the Lord. Help us Lord to be reconciled with you, our friends and our family members so that together we may celebrate the joy of our salvation, which you bring to us through Jesus’ birth on Christmas Day. We ask this through Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever, Amen.