From the Archives of Fr. Metzler’s Homilies: 2nd Sunday of Advent, Cycle B

“Our Christmas Wish – Be a Giver”

Isaiah 40: 1-5, 8-11     2 Peter 3: 8-14      Mark 1: 1-8

This second Sunday in Advent speaks to us of a promise kept: God’s promise of salvation, kept in the sending of Jesus. But it also speaks of our personal promise to God to accept this wonderful Gift of salvation. As we continue to journey through this season, we are preparing to keep it.

Today’s Gospel is the very beginning of the Gospel of Mark; First off, he tells us it’s “Good News”. And then he begins with the coming on to the scene of John the Baptist. John is a wild, ranting sort. But he says we must “prepare the way of the Lord”.

Mark dares to say that in a world that is broken and weary God is about to bring about a NEW CREATION where peace and harmony will prevail over pride and violence.

And this new beginning, which occurs at the coming of Jesus, even transcends the original creation in its scope and significance. God’s dream for a world of peace and justice had not been fulfilled – and even after the birth of Jesus it has not — and due entirely to the obstacles which WE have placed in its path. And so, as we begin the Season of Advent, we begin to prepare once again, properly for his coming.

Mark tells us that the career of John the Baptist was described already in the words of Isaiah, and he is also telling us that opening the road for the coming of the Lord and leveling the mountains, and filling the valleys, is still a major problem. We are still preventing the coming of the Lord by personally refusing to open ourselves to the radical implications of the message of Jesus.

The baptism of John was not a real baptism, of course. Baptism is dying with Christ and rising with him to New Life. And Jesus had not accomplished this as yet in John’s time. John’s baptism is called a baptism of repentance.

And it represents both a negative side and a positive one: the first is an expression of regret for having refused to accept fully in one’s life the implications of the coming of the Lord. And the other, the positive aspect is a declaration of personal readiness to make room in our lives for the Lord, however costly that may be.

The first implies a full and conscious acceptance of what Jesus teaches. That results in putting aside self-centeredness and beginning to be more loving and caring toward others. If that really happened, we would soon see what the new creation can be. Because as the Catholic writer G. K. Chesterton once said: “Christianity hasn’t failed; it hasn’t even been tried!”

One of the major ways in which we prevent the coming of the Lord is our fear that, if we don’t focus our attention primarily on our own interests, we will lose control of our lives and be pulled apart by the needs of others. We are afraid that, like Humpty Dumpty, if we don’t spend most of our time keeping ourselves intact, we’ll disintegrate.

But Jesus says that we have to become like that grain of wheat. It allows itself to be consumed, to die to itself in the earth, and so it becomes much more than it had ever previously been before. In the resurrection, God shows how all the pieces can be put back together and how a single, generous seed can yield   a wonderful harvest.

To accept to live the life, the Way of Jesus means to choose to commit yourself to live as unselfishly as one’s freedom permits. which usually means a lot more than we think is possible, and usually a lot more unselfishly than we are now. That’s why the custom of giving of presents at Christmas is a symbol of our willingness to be unselfish. It’s shy charities know that this is the time to send you all those appeals for contributions in the mail.

Unselfishness is the sign that we understand the message of Jesus. It doesn’t mean that we should become some kind of doormat; but it does mean that the needs of others should not be the last and least concern in our lives. In other words, it means to put our lives and our futures into the hands of a gracious God instead of thinking we had to put it all together ourselves, as we strive to make the love and gentleness of Jesus present in our world as our way of life.

All of this may sound like a life of endless giving to others and very little fun or happiness. But the only persons who affirm that are those who have not really tried to live by the model of Jesus. The fact is that those who really care about others are undoubtedly the happiest people on earth.

As we continue on our journey, listen to John the Baptist. He urges us to remove the roadblocks of fear and self-centeredness in our lives and thus assure ourselves of a truly joyous Advent and Christmas celebration.

 

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