December 5, 2008

Second Sunday of Advent / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe first reading for this Second Sunday of Advent is from the second section of Isaiah.

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

The people’s joy and relief is evident in this reading. Readers can sense their longing to return to their homeland. Also, and importantly, readers can realize that the people saw their rescue as a gift from God, given in God’s faithfulness to the Covenant.

Divine mercy formed to provide this rescue. The people had neither created their escape, nor had they earned it. Actually, their sins had caused their troubles. God mercifully forgave them and eradicated the effect of their sins, namely the Exile.

Thus, the prophet urges the people to be thankful, insisting that upon returning to their homeland the people must go to Jerusalem, to the holy mountain where stood the temple, and proclaim aloud the goodness of God there.

To any who doubt, the prophet declares that 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 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 does not forecast 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.

The last reading is from the beginning of St. Mark’s Gospel and relates the story of the Lord’s public ministry.

This reading quotes Isaiah’s prophecy that God, as pledged, 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.

The Gospel then tells of John the Baptist, who went throughout Judea calling people to repentance.

John reinforced his role as a prophet by being thoroughly detached from the things of this world. His very appearance, and behavior, emphasized the fact that only the spiritual matters. Only God matters.

Mark’s Gospel, however, is careful to say that John himself was not the messenger promised by God in the writings of Isaiah, but rather that John came before this messenger. The messenger, the Savior, of course, was the Lord Jesus.


During Advent, through the liturgies and readings, the Church clearly, frankly and directly calls people to remember who they are as humans and to recognize the devastating results of sin in their lives.

This week, this message comes from Second Peter. It also echoes Second Isaiah and Mark. Sin, or total estrangement from God through personal sin, is indeed the root of all evil, producing death itself, not simply earthly death but eternal death. And, inevitably, it leads to misery in life on Earth.

However, these lessons, while unequivocal and admittedly dour, are not in the end terrifying or filled with doom. Instead, all three readings remind us that God’s mercy is overwhelming and unending.

In God’s mercy is hope. Through God’s mercy, sins are forgiven and everlasting life is acquired.

The key to obtaining this mercy personally is to recognize personal sin and repent.

The Church’s wondrous reassurance in these readings is that God never turns away a sincerely sorrowful sinner. We can always rely on God’s love, but God does not drag us kicking and screaming into heaven. We must turn to God voluntarily and wholeheartedly.

Advent calls us to realize that we need God, especially in our sinfulness. We need God’s mercy, but we personally must seek it by repenting. †

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