First Reading: Isaiah 11. 1 – 10
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 72. 1 – 2, 7 – 8, 12 -13, 17.
Second Reading: Romans 15. 4 – 9
Gospel: Matthew 3. 1 – 12
Today the Church wants us to meet Jesus through John the Baptist. ‘He was a heard, a
crier warning the citizens of the imminent coming of the king so that people may keep the
paths and streets clean, smooth and straight, and that would be the king’s ‘ highway’.
John as the herald, crier who warned people to make a high way for Jesus the King. This
highway is to be prepared by the straightening of human hearts and human lives. He
spoke of burning the chaff with unquenchable fire. Fire illuminates, it gives warmth; fire
also purifies and signifies the burning zeal of the one committed to the word of the Lord.
Later on tongues of fire would descend from heaven on the day of the first Pentecost.
John’s message for straightening of human hearts and human lives consisted in both a
warning and a promise, because he as agitated against the hypocrisy of both the Pharisees
and Sadducees. He called them a brood of vipers. A viper is a snake whose presence in
unsuspected, but which hurts and can kill.
However, there are similarities between John and Jesus. People called John a preacher;
Jesus would also preach God’s word. John walked in the desert; Jesus was tempted in the
desert. Both John and Jesus had large audiences and both had their opponents in the
Pharisees and Sadducees. The central message of both John and Jesus as the same, viz.
the reform of lives, repentance and the coming of God’s kingdom. Both suffered
persecution and were killed. Both were buried by their own followers.
But John was only a voice. Jesus is the Word; John was a herald but Jesus inaugurated
the Kingdom of God. Jesus inspires hope; his baptism was greater than that of John the
Baptist. John said that he can only baptize with water; whereas Jesus would baptize with
the Holy Spirit and fire. The prophecy of John as fulfilled in Jesus.
What can we learn from the message of John the Baptist, today, this second Sunday of
Advent? There is certainly in us something of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, viz. e
too are not totally free from the hypocrisy of our lives. We too do not always say what
we mean and do not mean what we say. We do not always act according to our inmost
conscience. We too at times deceive and manipulate one another, live and act in
duplicity. We are not always transparent with regard to truth and justice. We need to be
free from our hypocritical ways of living and acting. What counts before the Lord are
total transparency, honesty, genuineness, truth and justice.
As a result of John’s preaching, people went to him to confess their sins and receive
forgiveness through baptism. We too, today, are in need of forgiveness for our sins so
that our hearts might be adequately prepared and our conscience become clean, pure and
radiant with the love of God, to receive our Lord and his kingdom.
John as the desert dweller from his youth living a solitary life with God, far from the
world and its noise, distractions, attractions and pleasures, a life along with God, a life of
prayer and fasting. We too need to take time daily to remain in solitude, in the quietness
of our hearts and approach God in prayer, praise, worship, thanksgiving and
contemplation, in order to welcome the Lord in our hearts, families, parishes, in the
Church and in the Society on Christmas day. The more time we spend in solitude and
prayer, greater will be our joy, gladness and the experience of peace in our hearts and all
John as an ascetic. He wore a garment of camel’s hair, a leather girdle around his waist
and sandals; living on locusts and wild honey. His life of asceticism enabled him to
prepare himself for the Lord’s coming and proclaim his message of repentance and
reconciliation. We too are required to practice some sort of asceticism in our lives during
Advent. Each one must choose hat to set aside and to give up, so that our hearts and
minds become attuned to the Lord. We need to ask ourselves: How can I live a simple
life; hat pleasure of the world can I renounce so that I can seek delight in the Lord. We
too ought to confess our sins in the sacrament of reconciliation and free ourselves of the
sadness of the guilt that our sins have caused us.
The most urgent invitation of John to help us prepare ourselves during Advent, as an
adequate preparation for Christmas is by acknowledging our need for Christ who is
constantly calling us to holiness. Our Pope Francis has been emphasizing that all of us
are sinners who are in need of God’s forgiveness and mercy, and we have to continually
beg, pray for His mercy, which we are sure to receive for the asking. Let us not be in
illusion that we are already holy, pure, guiltless, sinless….. lest we deceive ourselves by
entertaining this false and deceptive attitude.
‘John warns us that the greatest obstacle for the coming of Jesus in our hearts is our
personal soul is sin. Each Advent is an opportunity to come closer to Christ and deepen
our relationship with him through prayer and repentance. His power is at work in our
lives when we have no time for and whose plight we don’t want to know about. Breaking
down such barriers will open the way of Christ to come to us and be born in our hearts at
Christmas.’ (Desmond Knowles)
I came across an Advent prayer of confession that might help us for a reflection in the
solitude of our hearts. The prayer is:
If I have spent so much time shopping that we have little time to spend with those for
whom e are shopping, Lord, forgive us and give us sensitivity.
If we get so busy practicing for the Christmas programs that we forget to think about
what they mean, God forgive us and give us understanding.
If we decorate our houses but neglect the inner beauty of our homes, O God, forgive us
and grant us love.
If we are worried about how much Christmas is going to cost us but have little thought to
how much Christmas cost God, Oh Lord, forgive us and give us perspective.
If we are consumed with thinking about this Christmas that we have little consideration
for the meaning of the first Christmas, O Lord, forgive us and give us insight.
If we are overextended and bogged down with tiredness and long to see your fact but
cannot find it, Lord, give us a sign of hope.
If we are too much in a hurry to realize our potential, our destiny, that we are saints-in-
the-making, O Lord, slow us down and give us quiet and solitude.
Mary of Advent, help us prepare for the coming of the Lord. Amen. (William J. Bausch)