Theme: ADVENT IS A TIME WHEN WE PREPARE FOR THE COMING OF JESUS CHRIST
- Isaiah 11:1-10
- Psalm 71:1-2. 7-8. 12-13. 17. R. v. 7
- Romans 15:4-9
- Matthew 3:1-12
Today is the Second Sunday of Advent. The word “Advent” comes from the Latin word “Adventus” meaning “Coming”! Advent is a time when we prepare for the Coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas and at the end of time!
The two comings are similar in the sense that when Jesus Christ comes, whether at Christmas or at the end of time, he will bring us his love, his mercy, his forgiveness, his peace, and his joy!
The preparation for the two comings are also the same, whether we prepare for his coming at Christmas or at the end of time, we have to pray, to do good works, to practice justice, to make peace, to practice charity towards the poor, to go to confession, etc.!
The difference between the two comings is that the Second Coming completes and perfects the First Coming, which we celebrate at Christmas! In the Second Coming he will complete and perfect the love, mercy, forgiveness, peace, and joy of his First Coming, so that his love, mercy, forgiveness, peace and joy will be complete and perfect in us!
Advent is therefore a time when we prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas and at the end of time!
The first reading from the prophet Isaiah tells us that when Jesus Christ comes, he will be filled with the Holy Spirit and the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, Counsel, Insight, Power, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord!
But more importantly, the first reading tells us that when he comes he will bring justice to the earth. Unlike the corrupted kings of Israel, he will judge the poor with integrity and honesty. He will judge the weak with justice. He will strike down the ruthless and the merciless, and he will destroy the wicked!
But most importantly, the first reading tells us that he will bring peace to the earth! There will be peace between God and man, between man and man, and between man and the animal kingdom! It will be a restoration of the peace of Paradise!
In Genesis 3, man rebelled against God, and consequently man was not at peace with God, not at peace with other man, and not at peace with the earth.
In his 1990 World Day of Peace Message, Pope John Paul II quoted Genesis 3:17-19 to tell us that man was not at peace with the earth, so much so that man had to get his food from the earth painfully, and the earth yielded him thorns! The Pope also quoted Genesis 4:12 to tell us that when man tilled the earth, the earth would not yield its fruit to man!
Indeed today with the destruction of the rainforest, the pollution of the environment, the destruction of other species, the ozone hole, the warming of the earth, over fishing, the pollution of the earth with chemicals, the earth will not yield up its food for man!
The first reading tells us that when Jesus Christ comes there will be peace between God and man, man and man, and man and the animal kingdom!
Thus the prophesy of Isaiah: “The wolf lives with the lamb, the panther lies down with the kid (of the goat), calf and lion cub feed together with a little boy to lead them. The cow and the bear make friends, their young lie down together. The lion eats straw like the ox. The infant plays over the cobra’s hole; into the viper’s lair the young child puts his hand”!
The responsorial psalm helps us to meditate on the first reading, thus the responsorial psalm takes up the theme of the first reading. The response of the responsorial psalm tells us that when Jesus Christ comes there will be justice and peace: “In his days justice shall flourish and peace till the moon fails”! Peace forever!
The psalm tells us that he will judge the people with justice and the poor with right judgment. He will save the poor when they cry, and he will save the weak and the poor from oppression and exploitation!
The responsorial psalm relates justice to peace! There can be no peace without justice!
But most importantly, the gospel tells us that when Jesus Christ comes he will baptize us with the Holy Spirit and with fire! His Holy Spirit will burn away our sins like fire burning away the impurities to purify the gold! Something that even water cannot do! The Holy Spirit of God’s love will burn away our sins!
That is why at a penitential service for our priests, we were told to write down our sins on pieces of paper and burn them with the fire of the paschal candle and throw them into a metal container! The fire of the paschal candle is the Holy Spirit of God’s love and the metal container is hell!
Hell is not a place where God burns you. Hell is the love of God burning away our sins! Hell is the love of God experienced by a sinner! A sinner experiences God’s love as pain, suffering, punishment, purification, purgatory, and hell, for his repentance and conversion, so that he will find the love, mercy, forgiveness, peace, joy, and life of God!
I was brought up by my mother to do good works for fear of hell and for love of heaven! A Muslim woman mystic was asked why she always carried water on one hand and fire on the other! She carried water to put out the fire of hell and she carried fire to burn heaven, because people do good works, for fear of hell and for love of heaven, but not for the love of God! God first loved us! We respond by loving God in return! We do good works because we love God and we love one another! God’s love burns away our sins so that we can love God and love one another!
The gospel today asks us to repent and to convert, that is, to turn away from sin (repent) and to turn to Jesus Christ (convert)! To turn away from sin is not good enough, because we will turn back to sin! We have to turn away from sin and more importantly, to turn to Jesus Christ who will burn away our sins with the Holy Spirit of God’s Love!
That is why when you go to confession during this time of Advent, it is more important that you listen to what the priest confesses than the priest listen to what you confess!
After you have confessed your sins and received your penance, the priest gives you the absolution with these words:
“God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. And you answer: “Amen”.
With these words of absolution Jesus Christ burns away your sins with the fire of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit of the love and mercy of God! Amen!
Besides going to confession during this time of Advent, the Church also asks us to practice justice and to make peace, but more importantly, the Church also asks us to practice charity (from the Latin word “caritas” meaning love) and love, especially to the poor, the aged, the children, the orphaned, the blind, the deaf and the dumb, the sick, etc., by becoming “Santa Claus” to them!
Finally, the Church also asks us to go caroling to share the Good News of Christmas with others, including the pagans!
Thus the second reading from Romans exhorts us: “The reason Christ became the servant of circumcised Jews was not only so that God could faithfully carry out the promises made to the patriarchs, it was also to get the pagans to give glory to God for his mercy, as scripture says in one place: For this I shall praise you among the pagans and sing your name”!
Parish Priest of St Mary, Tawau, Sabah East Malaysia.