God’s Kingdom Is Near
As a family of God’s people, we continue to move in the hope of receiving the fulfillment of God’s promise through our ancestors in faith. On this second Sunday in Advent, the Church reminds us that while we are sustained by the great hope of the Lord’s coming, we have to pay heed to the voice of the one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his path straight.” The Readings today invite us to recall God’s saving deeds in the history of Israel, culminating in the coming of the promised Messiah.
In the First reading, Isaiah prophesied of the Lord’s coming in unequivocal terms. He equally, clearly described the qualities and marks of this promised king. First, he shall be filled with the spirit of God. He shall be a man of integrity. He shall judge with equity and righteousness. He will not only fear God, but shall respect his people.
What a great hope the prophet brings us this season! Isaiah reminds us that the future is bright in Christ our Messiah. He promises that he shall be different from other kings, and that his reign shall bring us freedom from evil and oppression. It shall bring us peace with God, and with one another. It shall strengthen our unity in spite of our diversities.
The prophet writes: “The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion cub feed together with a little child to lead them…They will not hurt or destroy or do any harm on all my holy mountain.’’ Indeed, if we welcome Christ sincerely, this will not sound utopian as many think it does. Our world would be a place where we do not have to live in fear of one another and where the strong will no longer oppress the weak.
In the Second Reading, St. Paul continues with the same message of hope for all nations. He reminds us that: “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.” It is this same hope that sustains us this season. It will keep us united in faith, in prayer and in love until what is written in the scriptures is fulfilled. Hence, through what has been written, Paul encourages us to rejoice and praise God for what he is about to do, and to accept and respect one another for the sake of God’s glory as Christ has accepted us.
In today’s Gospel, the fact of the appearance of John the Baptist is also a message of hope that the coming of the Messiah is near. The Gospel from John the Baptist encourages a change in our lives: We would look on ourselves and regret what we should regret – our sins, our meanness, our minor faults and failings, our injustices and hurt of others. However, John brings a very important message to us: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near!” Also, he employed the prophecy of Isaiah to exalt us to: “prepare the way of the Lord and make his path straight!” In doing this we should take encouragement from God’s word and never give up hope. As Christ encourages each one of us, we too should encourage each other.
The message of John this Sunday underscores the importance of this season. It is a time of not just-for-material preparation. Rather, it is a time of retreat, a time of deep reflection on the mystery that God is about to reveal to the world. It is a time of cleaning up and leveling the rough edges of our lives with the hope of receiving our Lord in a wonderful state of mind and body. It suffices to remind us here that John’s message is another way of telling us that: “Without Holiness no one will see the Lord,” (Heb 12, 14).
Repentance, reconciliation, and holiness of heart are the prerequisites for justifying our hope at the end of this season. Therefore, let us rid ourselves of everything that will hinder us from receiving Christ this season. In light of this, the Church encourages us to take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation in order to prepare ourselves to receive our Lord and King.
Fr. Jude CSSp