December 4, 2015

Second Sunday of Advent / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Baruch provides the first reading for this Second Sunday of Advent.

Baruch is not one of the major prophets. Having only five chapters, it is relatively brief, certainly when the long books of Ezekiel, Isaiah and Jeremiah are considered.

It also is among the Old Testament books which Protestants do not accept as having been divinely inspired, and so are excluded from their Bible.

It is also not included in the Jewish Scriptures used today.

One reason for its omission from these versions is that at one time it was presumed to have been written originally in Greek. It was thought that Old Testament books could not be considered authentic revelation unless composed in Hebrew. Actually, scholars now believe that Baruch first was written in Hebrew, but that only Greek translations survive.

For Catholics, however, most important is the fact that Christians from early times venerated Baruch as part of the Bible, and the Church officially long ago recognized it as such.

In any case, when Baruch was written great problems beset God’s people. This book encouraged the suffering, reassuring them that God would not forsake them, and that God’s justice and mercy will prevail over all.

St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians furnishes the next reading. Sent to the Christians of Philippi, an important city in the ancient Roman Empire, the epistle urges the Philippians loyal to the Lord to be steadfast in their faith, come what may, until the second coming of Jesus.

As is so often found elsewhere in the New Testament, this reading strongly states that one day, but at a time unknown, Jesus will come again in triumph and judgment.

St. Luke’s Gospel is the source of the last reading.

This reading centers upon Jesus, although St. John the Baptist is also prominent in it. Carefully constructed, this Gospel reading presents the coming of Jesus as extraordinarily, indeed uniquely, important in the course of human affairs.

The Lord’s coming was so important, in fact, that John the Baptist spent his life proclaiming that, in God’s majesty, a savior would come. The savior, of course, would be Jesus.

John was a holy man. Ancient Jews believed that holiness gave persons special wisdom. God used such persons to reveal truth to other humans. Thus, John’s prediction of the coming of Jesus had particular credibility.

This Gospel reading takes pains in setting the presence of John, and the future coming of Christ, at an exact moment in history, namely when Tiberius was emperor, Pilate was his governor in Palestine, and so on.

Finally, when Jesus came as God’s promised Redeemer, these predictions were fulfilled. The prophets of old had yearned for the Redeemer, and had forecast the coming of a savior. It was John’s message as well. When this messiah would come, all would be made right. The rough ways for people would be made smooth.

Reflection

When Baruch was written, times were bad for the Jews. When Philippians and the Gospel of Luke were written, times were hard for Christians. The nature of the hardships differed, but the consequence was the same.

On this Second Sunday of Advent, the Church speaks to us. Times may be hard. Human life always has its puzzles, setbacks and worries.

Despite our anxiety and heartaches, however, all will be right. All will be joy and peace, if we admit Jesus into our lives. He awaits our invitation. We invite the Lord into our lives sincerely by reforming ourselves, by renouncing our sins and by giving ourselves totally to God—all with the help of his grace.

Jesus is coming. John the Baptist also calls us to be prepared. †

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