Homily for the Second Sunday of Advent ©, December 9th, 2018:
Baruch 5:1-9; Psalm 126; Philippians 1:4-6,8-11; Luke 3:1-6
By Father Scott Karnik
The readings today tell us to prepare for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, just like last week. But this week, the readings tell us something more. They tell us that Jesus is coming to reconcile us with God His Father. God wants to forgive us our sins and save us, take us to Him, to be with Him in love forever, on that day when Jesus comes at the end of time.
First, in Baruch, the speaker tells Jerusalem to end her mourning. Jerusalem is told to prepare for the joyful return of her children (the exiles from Babylon). She is told to remove her garment of sorrow and to “put on forever the splendor of glory from God:…”(Baruch 5:1). This splendor of God is God’s saving action in returning her children from the Babylonian exile. The big message is that God has reconciled with His people. God has rescued them. Jerusalem will be reinstated in her former glory. She is adorned in holiness and she rules with justice. The outlook is Messianic. To “reinstate” means “to place again in possession or in a former position, condition, or capacity.” Our reconciliation today comes from faith in God’s Son, Jesus Christ. God is eager to reconcile with us. God is eager to reinstate in us His sanctifying grace, the state of love and grace Adam and Eve had before they disobeyed. This state of sanctifying grace enables us to practice virtuous acts. There will be no obstacles. Every lofty mountain will be made low and the valleys filled to make level ground. There will be no obstacles to come to God for forgiveness, love, mercy, and salvation. His salvation is universal, in a universal church.
Psalm 126 says the same. This is a pilgrim psalm sung as the worshipers approach the Temple. The psalmist anticipates the Messianic days when people will be filled with joy. But that is future. Right now, the people sow in tears. May God return prosperity, as the rains return fertility to the Negeb desert. The psalm says to us that it is of service to sinners who wish to be delivered from slavery to sin and to the just who sigh for the end of their exile here on earth. Our consolation will be so great that we will seem like men dreaming. Our consolation will be the forgiveness of our sins.
St. Paul asks the Philippian Christians to increase their love to know and to experience what is truly valuable. He asks this so that the Philippians will be pure and blameless at the day of Christ’s second coming. St. Paul has faith that the graces of their baptism will lead them to the glory of eternal life. God initiates and completes this whole good work. But God asks for our cooperation with His help by pursuing holiness and working toward salvation. We do that through the painful labor of repentance.
And finally in the Gospel, St. John the Baptist prepares the way of the Lord that today, through Jesus Christ, leads to the Messianic kingdom. He prepares through baptism. John’s baptism was a ritual act expressing the willingness of the person to join the movement of renewal. It counted on an interior disposition of repentance without which there could be no forgiveness. St. John proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The penitent sinner would arrive at the Jordan River to humble himself to receive this baptism of repentance (with water). Their penitent disposition would make them more receptive to Christ, who comes to baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
All of this culminates in the same message for us. Jesus is coming. Prepare for Him. Go to the beautiful sacrament of confession this Advent. Our communal reconciliation service is Monday evening at 7pm here at St. Anthony’s. It is the best way for us to make every lofty mountain low and every valley filled to make a level road that Jesus can walk on to come into our souls with His forgiveness and sanctifying grace. That will be the fruit of our painful labor of repentance from our sins. Jesus is coming again and He will take us who love Him with Him on that day. His consolation for us will be so wonderful that we will be like men dreaming.
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