Second Sunday of Advent
Is 11:1-10; Psalm 72; Rom 15:4-9; Mt 3:1-12
Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, is a figure much loved in the monastic tradition. His voice in Advent calls to us all to be purposeful in this season of grace. There is great concern in our time that with all the electronic devices people are using, especially young folks are losing the capacity to hear. John’s message most obviously was delivered in a time before technology, but the concern is the same. Are people listening – to God? Can they hear what God is saying? Advent comes each year with the reminder to recalibrate our trajectory. This isn’t geography – isn’t spatial – it’s spiritual, it’s the interior guiding the exterior. And it’s important. The spiritual is so much more than words – we live what we believe.
Those living monastic life find in the person of John the Baptist a source of encouragement, because it is easy to lose the path when you come to the desert. Instead of keeping the focus on God, one can give into all kinds of good options that self reflection later concludes were ways of avoiding keeping one’s heart set on God. The second reading speaks of the God of steadfast encouragement. In Advent we find in Isaiah, John and Mary – people whose lived faith speaks to our living our faith, encouraging us to live each day mindful of God’s unwavering love. Not long ago I was speaking with Bishop Estevez about how much we need bishops to truly be voices of encouragement for all of us trying to fix our attention on God.
As our resolve to live in God and for God is renewed by listening to the Baptist’s voice this second Sunday of Advent, we are living in the line of the root of Jesse, which the first reading tells us will be glorious. A loving voice – not harsh, not strident, but encouraging – reminds us to repent that the time for turning to God is now. Some of us will acknowledge we have inherited an understanding of repentance that felt so much like being judged against or judged as deficient or lacking. The third vow we live in the Cistercian life is ongoing conversion always turning to God, turning from sin, turning from being self absorbed, to be caught up in receiving this ceaseless offering of love being made by God. While we turn from, we are very much turning to. Advent gives us all the reminder to set our hearts on God who has set his heart on us. And God setting his heart on us isn’t some theory or idea – the incarnation and the paschal mystery manifest in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus how dearly we are loved by God who doesn’t stay remote, at a distance, but acmes to be with us. in each celebration of the Eucharist we are renewed in celebrating Jesus ‘dying for us and giving himself to us as our nourishment for this remarkable journey through our life hime to God.
This second Sunday of Advent isn’t asking us to dress in camel hair and eat wild locusts and wild honey, but it is inviting us with John to turn our minds and hearts to God; it is inviting us to hope for the justice and peace which Isaiah tells us God desires us to have; it invites us through Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans to receive and give encouragement to one another that we might live in harmony with one another through Jesus Christ. May we continue the journey of Advent filled with hope.