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READING           I Is 40, 1-5. 9-11
Psalm                   85, 9-10. 11-12. 13-14
READING           II 2 Pt 3, 8-14
GOSPEL              Mark 1, 1-8

A reading of the Holy Gospel of Mark + (May the Word of the Lord be on my mind, on my lips, and in my heart.)

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way,
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
make his paths straight,’”

So, John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And the whole Judean region and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him and were baptized by him in the River Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the strap of his sandals. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Today is the Second Sunday of Advent, or week two in the Church calendar known as the Lectionary Cycle. I am awed by our readings this week.  As I read the words of the prophet Isaiah, Psalm 85, Saint Peter, and Mark the Evangelist, my heart and mind are touched by the deep love and presence of God.  Isaiah speaks: “Comfort, give comfort to my people says our God.” The Psalmist writes, “Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss.” Peter states: “In accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.” In Mark’s Gospel, John the Baptist proclaims in humility: “I am not worthy to untie His sandals.”

God loves us so much that He came to earth in the innocence of a baby.  I recall the birth of our only child, Luke Anthony. After five years of infertility treatments, and waiting month after month, we conceived a child, and a nine-pound bundle of love arrived at 12:03 PM on May 11, 1988. My dear wife Rose may not describe the experience as a “bundle.” Her efforts in the delivery were clearly much greater than mine. Yet, when I held Luke in my arms the first time, I gave thanks to God for such a magnificent gift. Have you held a baby lately?  Have you thought about how magnificent creation is contained in such a small bundle of love?  Advent is the remembrance of the arrival of God in an eternal bundle of love.

The word Advent is a noun, meaning both a new beginning and an arrival.  As I consider today’s readings, I forget about shopping and decorations.  Instead, I think about how I should prepare my interior house, my soul, and literally “make Him room” in this busy season. In the beginning of Christianity, Church leaders taught to view Advent from three different perspectives: 1) the physical nativity in Bethlehem, 2) the reception of Christ in the heart of the believer, and 3) the eschatological Second Coming. We need to think about Advent in the historical past, in our living, and in the future coming of Christ at the end of days.

The work of preparing our hearts and minds for eternity is a lot tougher than buying Aunt Suzie the right color sweater.  During Advent, Church readings include the eschaton: the first coming of the Lord as the Christ-child to His second coming in eternity.  Yet Advent is also very personal about our spiritual journey.  How do you experience Advent?  When did you accept that God loves you, forgives you and wants you to live with him in joy forever?  Advent is realizing God calls us by name, and accepting that God considers us as his bundle of love.

Advent is also a season of hope – a joyful waiting for the Lord to be present in our lives.  In Advent, God is both victor and savior.  He is a consoler and messenger.  He comes once in human innocence.  He comes again in divine glory.

In the very early church, the great Saint Cyril of Jerusalem talked about this theme of Advent.  Consider his words for meaning in your life.

“We do not preach one coming of Christ but a second as well, more glorious than the first.  The first coming was marked by the patience of giving birth to an innocent child.  The second coming will bring the crown of a divine kingdom and eternal ruler.  In the first coming, he was wrapped in swaddling clothes.  At his second coming, he will be clothed in light as a garment.  In his first coming, he endured the cross, despising the shame.  In the second coming, he will be in glory, escorted by an army of angels.  At his first coming, we said, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.  In the second coming, we shall say it again with the angels in adoration.  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Pierce, 2022).

To prepare Him room this season, I suggest these Advent actions:

  • Make maximum use of Church community opportunities like attending liturgy, prayer services, and activities.
  • Be grateful for receiving Jesus in the Sacrament of Communion. Consider the words of the liturgy – “we offer our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to you, O Lord” (Rite Two).
  • Make a set time to pray each day.  Place yourself before the Lord just as you are…in the morning, enjoy a cup of coffee with your best Friend reflecting on the scriptures.  In the evening, be present with him in your pajamas and say night prayer.  Allow the Lord to find you at your most real self and influence your spirit through prayerful quiet.  Let the Prince of Peace soften your heart with the oil of gladness.
  • Finally, experience the virtues of charity and hospitality.  Make each card you write a message of love and hope.  Make each gift a symbol of peace and charity.  Open your home to others who may not be as fortunate as you.  Offer prayers of peace and healing for others.

Christian living is about Advent.  We are people who need to make each day a moment of faith, hope and charity.  While we live in today, we realize our past is forgiven.  We live in today as God holds our future in His loving hands.  We are people who live in joyful expectation of eternity. And eternity begins today.  We, the people of Church, are a New Advent.  We come to do His will in this time and place, and we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  The great Saint Anselm once prayed: “Lord, let me seek you in desiring you and desire you in seeking you, find you in loving you and love you in finding you.” Let us ready our hearts.  Let us prepare Him room.  Come Lord Jesus.

Reference:

Pierce, A. (2022, Winter). Cyril of Jerusalem and Advent. Advent Meditation. North American Lutheran Seminary. https://www.thenals.org/cyril-of-jerusalem-and-advent

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