Everything is done through God’s initiative
Second Sunday of Advent, Dec. 9, 2012 (2AdvC)
By Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA
Podcast of the Sunday Readings
Sunday Bible Study Questions
Lecturas y Comentarios
New American Bible
Prayer of the Hours
Recently a man appeared in court accused of having raped, badly beaten and assaulted 2 young women. At the end of the trial the judge sentenced him to 8 years imprisonment. He said that normally in similar cases he would have given 5 years. But the accused man showed no sign of remorse. He refused to tell the victims he was sorry. He certainly didn’t show any sign of repentance at any stage or that he intended to change his ways.
In the gospel we are told that John preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Repentance means a totally new way of following Jesus and seeing what the Good News is really about – a total liberation on all levels of our being; emotional, psychological, spiritual, relational etc.
Repentance is not so much trying to go from being good to being better but above all it means looking at life with the eyes of God and responding accordingly. Do we pray daily to God for this kind of repentance since it is a pure gift from God and freely available?
In the second reading St. Paul prays that the love of the Philippians, to whom he is writing, will increase more and more towards each another and never stop improving their knowledge and deepening their perception so that they can always recognise what is best. That is quite a demanding programme for Christian living.
No matter how badly we have sinned in the past or how long we have stayed away from God we can always turn back to God and be sure of a very warm and total welcome and acceptance. This was what the prophet Baruch was telling the Israelites in the First Reading. At the time the Israelites were in sorrow and distress caused by their turning away from God but the prophet assured them that God would deliver them. He himself would guide the people to salvation. He would give them peace through integrity and honour through devotedness. Are we people of integrity and devotedness?
In all the readings today there is one message coming through. Everything is done through God’s initiative, God’s accompanying us if we but allow him and bringing to completion what he desires for us – our lasting peace and happiness. But it demands our cooperation, a gift we should pray for often. The reason he asks this of us is not punish us if we don’t respond and turn from his ways but we ourselves will suffer and cause hurt to others.
It is interesting in the gospel to read that the Word of God came to John the Baptist in the wilderness. It was God’s gift to John but for a reason – to call the people to repentance. John heard this word, received it fully and acted on it.
God’s word still comes to the humble people who renew others by acts of kindness; to people who lower the mountains of selfishness by their selfless serving of others especially the poor, to those who fill up the valleys of hatred and injustice by their work for justice and peace and to those who commit themselves to try and safeguard the environment, the ozone layer, the ecological system of the earth so as to hand on a better world to those coming after them.
We may not think they are important people by the world’s standards but by God’s standards they are and he will use us also if we allow him. Are we not all called to have the same vocation as John the Baptist to prepare the way of the Lord by communicating the Spirit of Christ and his message of hope, love, freedom and peace to others?
Our vocation is to help people fill up with peace and joy their valleys of pain and make their rough paths smoother. A word of affirmation and encouragement can work wonders. People like you and me here at this Eucharist are called by God as John was. How do you and I respond?
God is surely the God of surprises. His ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts as the prophet Isaiah says. He comes to all those people who like John welcome the Word of God into their lives. He is still coming into our world and perhaps in a totally different way than people imagine.
Each of us is invited to hear the Word of God today wherever we find ourselves. It comes through the kindness of others to us, through us to others when we visit those in hospital or in nursing homes, bring their groceries to those who can no longer go out, spend time with bereaved people etc. It is in very ordinary daily situations that the Word of God comes to us and through us. John the Baptist heard the Word of God in the wilderness.
Our cities and towns are often such busy places and our lives are often so hectic. We do really need some quiet time so that we can hear God speaking to us. Some people at Advent try and find some time each day to listen to the word of God so that they may prepare spiritually as well as materially for Christ’s coming at Christmas. How will you and I prepare?
Rest assured that in Jesus God did not appear in his humanity in a superficial and hasty way, as a president or a pope might pay a fleeting visit to a slum area so as to be with the poor for a couple of hours. Jesus came to live amongst us once and forever. He became the centre of history and nothing or no one can change that reality. He is the God of today and will be the God of tomorrow too. When we look in this way at the coming of God we again can become people of hope.
“Lord Jesus, help us to prepare for your coming this Christmas by breaking down in us the walls of pride and selfishness between God, ourselves and others. Maranatha, come Lord Jesus. Amen”.