Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Advent Year C
Theme: The person and mission of John the Baptist
By: Abbot Christian Leisy, OSB
Christ in the Desert Monastery, Abiquiu, New Mexico
Homily for Sunday 5 December 2021
On the Second Sunday of Advent the Church has us contemplate the person and mission of Saint John the Baptist, the great prophet of the coming of Christ. Considered more than a prophet, Saint John was the greatest of the voices announcing the coming of salvation in Jesus Christ.
John the Baptist boldly proclaimed: “Make ready the way of the Lord, clear him a straight path.” In other words, the Saving Lord is coming, the desired of all nations, so hearts must be prepared for the coming of God as man, what we call the Incarnation.
Advent, the Church’s annual liturgical season leading up to Christmas, is a special time of preparing to celebrate that day when Christ was born in Bethlehem two millennia ago. We are also preparing in this season for the return of the Lord at the end of time and at the end of our life on earth, at the moment of our death.
In the midst of all this preparing, we acknowledge too that the Lord is present already and desires to come to us every day and at every moment of our existence. The question is: are we ready and open to the Lord coming into our life each day?
Though the Lord is present, we might easily miss the fact in our daily life. Especially at this time of year we can be easily so caught up in the “Christmas rush” of preparing food or planning trips, purchasing gifts or sending Christmas cards, that God, who stands quietly knocking at the door of our hearts, can be missed entirely.
For many people today, and perhaps more and more and time goes on, God is far, far away. But the God who is presented to us by the Church and on this Sunday in the words of the prophet Baruch, is a God of tenderness and very near, who shows patience to all people, desiring that no one be lost, but that all turn to God and live!
Listen again to the beautiful words of the prophet Baruch:
“Take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever.”
Likewise Baruch proclaims: “God is leading Israel in joy by the light of his glory, with his mercy and justice for company.”
Where love is found, as well as generosity of spirit, patience and repentance, there we meet the living God, present and active by the power of the Holy Spirit moving among believers who are open to hearing and experiencing God in their midst. The presence of Christ surrounds us in the world we inhabit, even in its brokenness, and also in the families or communities to which we belong, in our friendships, as well as in those who strive for a more just and equitable world. God is in our midst, promoting goodness and love, to which we are called to pursue each day.
How do we meet our God? We discover God present in our midst by living in contact with God in prayer, by participating in the Sacraments of the Church, and in God’s Word in Scripture, as well as in one another. Discovering the Lord also means manifesting God to others, by lives of love and self-sacrifice, in imitation of Christ.
As God has so loved us, so we must love one another. Jesus taught this to his first followers, and it is our call as well. This is a challenging task, but one to which we are called and which goes on throughout our earthly existence.
It is true to say that God needs us as instruments of love in the world today. When we see so much that is negative and disheartening, we can become discouraged and want to give up trying. The call as followers of Jesus is otherwise. Living “in Christ,” as Saint Paul calls it, we learn that where there is sincere and faithful love, even in the midst of contrary tendencies, God is present. Only where love is absent where there is insistence on sin and alienation from God, is God’s grace hindered. But even there God cannot be defeated when love ultimately triumphs.
A very special way for our God to be present to us is in the Holy Eucharist, the Mass, where God’s Word is proclaimed and where the Body of Christ is made present and offered to the faithful, for the life of the world.
Jesus taught that where two are three are gathered in his name, he is there in the midst of them (see the Gospel According to Saint Matthew, chapter 18, verse 20).
That describes so well the liturgical assembly of God’s people, who gather to pray as Christ’s Body, celebrating the mystery of faith, the Mass, and receiving the nourishment of God’s Word as well as the Body and Blood of the Lord under the form of bread and wine.
The short but sweet season of Advent is given to us in the Church that we might live our daily lives under God’s watchful care and in God’s guiding light for our path. God became human in Jesus Christ so that we might go to God and partake of divine life. There could be no greater “exchange of gifts” than this. As one family I know has decided to do this year, there will be no exchange of material gifts, only spiritual ones.
We await a new heavens and a new earth where the justice of God might reign and endure forever. In the second reading for Mass this Sunday, Saint Paul exhorts the Church of Philippi to learn the value of things that really matter, right up to the coming of Christ. Saint Paul expresses it in terms of love for one another abounding more and more, day by day, year by year.
From this day forward may we strive to give testimony to Christ’s message of justice and love in the world. How best to do so? By words and deeds of deep and lasting faith, hope and love.
We pray and sing joyously because the Lord is with us, never abandoning us, but guiding us along the way of peace and the perfect fulfillment that God desires us all to possess for eternity.