Homily Second Sunday of Advent Year B Repentance, holiness and witness

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Homily Second Sunday of Advent Year B

Reading 1: The prophetic words of Isaiah are spoken to the Jewish exiles in Babylon and to the remnant left in Jerusalem. To the former, Isaiah says that the seventy years of their exile from Jerusalem is about to end. Just as God delivered his people from their bondage in Egypt, so God will again deliver those in exile. But there will be a difference between the two manifestations of God’s power and mercy.

 Because of their ancestors’ hardness of heart and rebellion against God, it took them 40 years wandering in the desert, before they could enter into the Promised Land.  However, the return of the Babylonian exiles will be swift. God will lead them directly, because their time in exile had been a time of great cleansing. Just as the exiles from Egypt saw the glory of God but still rebelled, the exiles from Babylon will see the glory of God and rejoice.

Then the prophet speaks to the remnant left in Jerusalem. They are to be prepared to welcome the returning exiles and to proclaim the power of God to save and redeem.

Like the Shepherd guiding his sheep back home, so God will bring back his people. They were to prepare the way of the Lord in their hearts. So too must we do the same during these days of preparation for the celebration of the first coming of Jesus.

Last Sunday, we heard: Be watchful and alert. Today, we are to make ready in our lives for the new coming of Jesus in the present moment in our lives. St. John Paul II stated that Advent was a time of watchfulness, prayer and deeper conversion.

Gospel: Matthew picks up the theme from Isaiah: Prepare the way of the Lord. John the Baptist was the one who used this theme in his proclamation, calling the people of his day to expect the coming of the promised Messiah. First, he declares that the Lord is near. Secondly, he shows the people how they are to prepare: by repentance of sin. Thirdly, they are to demonstrate their decision to repent through the external sign of baptism. Fourthly, he pointed out that the one to come is greater than he. John was only the voice. Fifthly, while John was baptizing with water, the one to come will baptize with the Holy Spirit.

The message of John is just as relevant today as it was then. We are called to prepare the way as the Lord comes to us in a fresh, new way at this time. How are we to prepare? Repentance of sin through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This call for repentance was the same inaugural message of Jesus when he began preaching. “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand. This was the message of Peter to the crowds on Pentecost. Repent and turn away from your sins. While baptism was the external sign proclaimed by John, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the external sign of the new interior reality for us.

We were baptized with water and the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of regeneration: Baptism. We were anointed with the fire of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation. During this season of Advent, we pray that Jesus will come in the present moment to stir into flame the life of the Holy Spirit.  First of all that we may have a greater desire for a deeper union with God by growing in holiness. Secondly, that a greater desire to witness to others in the power of the Holy Spirit the good news of God’s love in and for us. We are to take up the prophetic mantle of Isaiah, John, Jesus and Peter, continuing the work of God by first preparing the way of the Lord in our own hearts and then preparing the way of the Lord in the hearts of others.

Reading 2: Peter reminds us of the preparation needed for the final coming of Jesus in glory.  He answers a question raised in his day about the timing of this coming.  He says that just as repentance was necessary to prepare for his first coming in fact and in our own personal lives, so repentance is needed as we prepare for his final coming. This is a time of mercy.

While repentance is an ongoing response, we should also “conduct yourselves in holiness and devotion.” Holiness is not doing extraordinary things, but in doing all things in love, obedient to the will of God.  It is a choice to respond to the grace of God in the present moment.  During this Advent season, God desires to come to us anew.  Do we desire to receive him anew? What in our lives block his coming? Prepare the way of the Lord.

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