December 5, 2014

Second Sunday of Advent / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe second part of the Book of Isaiah provides the first reading for this Second Sunday of Advent.

When this book was written, God’s people were very happy. Their long, dreary exile of four generations in Babylon was about to end. They were looking forward to returning to their homeland.

This section of Isaiah captures well the joy and relief the people felt and their longing to return to their homeland. This passage also conveys well the important understanding that this happy circumstance has occurred as a result of God’s mercy and faithfulness to the covenant he had made with his people.

It was not as if the people had earned God’s munificence in this regard, or that they had been unusually loyal to the covenant themselves. On the contrary, their sins had brought misery upon themselves.

Nevertheless, God’s mercy lives! So, the prophet insists that upon returning to their homeland, the people must go to Jerusalem, to the holy mountain where the temple once stood and proclaim there the goodness of God.

To any who doubt, this release from exile is proof of God’s existence and God’s love.

For its second reading this weekend, the Church presents a passage from the Second Epistle of St. Peter. Its theme differs from that of the first reading. The first reading was wonderfully optimistic. This reading is grim in its predictions of dark days and gloom.

However, it is not predicting everlasting death. Bad things will happen. Difficult times will come. But God will protect the faithful. In this last reassurance, the reading parallels the message of the first reading.

St. Mark’s Gospel furnishes the last reading.

It is the beginning of the Gospel, as the first verse of the reading states. And the opening verse indicates the purpose of this Scripture. It is the “Good News” about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

In these relatively few words, the entire reality of salvation is revealed. Something new is being proclaimed, utterly different from the sad moods and dreariness of human life, unbound by the variances of earthly existence.

The news, furthermore, is good! Jesus, the Son of God, both conveys this Good News and brings its effectiveness into human life.

This reading quotes Isaiah’s prophecy that God will send a representative to guide the people from death to life, from the deadly effects of their sins to the bright realms of God’s forgiveness. God has been true to this pledge. He gives us Jesus.

The Gospel then tells of John the Baptist, who went throughout Judea calling people to repentance. John recognized Jesus. Anyone can recognize Jesus, the Son of God. Too many, however, create an unrealistic image, an invention to confirm the easy way out or an excuse from the task of genuine conversion.

Reflection

In Advent, the Church clearly and frankly calls people to remember who they are and to recognize the devastating results of sin. Such was the message of John the Baptist.

These steps require frankness and humility. First, we must admit our sinfulness and human limitations.

We must see what sin actually is—total estrangement from and rejection of God. It is the cause of eternal death, and often of misery in earthly existence.

The ultimate message, nevertheless, is not doom and gloom. While we are limited and have sinned, while we may have made quite a mess for ourselves and for others, all of this weekend’s readings remind us that God’s mercy is overwhelming and unending.

So we have reason to hope. God will forgive us. He will strengthen us.

The key to obtaining this mercy is in admitting our personal sins and repenting. God does not drag us kicking and screaming into heaven, so we must wholeheartedly turn to God. †

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