December 8, 2019 – Second Sunday of Advent
Click here for the readings (http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120819.cfm)
A friend came to me and shared how she finds her life in darkness. She finds failures in everything she did and she has – her job, her boyfriend, her family, her friends and including herself. She felt confused and hopeless. Her life seems miserable and so she feels unhappy and bitter.
Listening to her, I asked her how she handles all of these. Although she feels that she is in darkness and not happy, she continues to believe in God. She persisted to hope that God would bring her into a life filled with joy, where everything shall also fall into its place.
However, what helped her more was when she began to recognize her own failures and sins. She herself took for granted the many good things she has in her life and was ungrateful. This was the reason why she was bitter and negative at everything. There was a deep emptiness in her heart that she was trying to satisfy but could not. This was the reason too why she found her life miserable and joyless. But recognizing and owning these attitudes completely changed the way she sees things and relate with herself, with people and with God.
As she repented and came closer to God, there is more hope and more joy that she finds. She begins to see more her God and not herself alone, and to see more brightness rather than misery and darkness.
Herself reminds me of the prophecy of Isaiah in the first reading and of the Gospel from Matthew that we have heard. Let us explore briefly the scriptures today and discover how God invites us on this second Sunday of Advent.
The prophecy of Isaiah was announced to the people who were both faithful and unfaithful to the covenant with God. This was a message of hope preached to them that despite the suffering brought about by their unfaithfulness, God remains faithful. The promise of the birth of a child will bring order, peace and harmony to their seemingly dark lives under exile.
As this is a message of hope, the prophecy is also a call to repentance, an act of recognizing the coming of the Messiah and coming closer to Him. It is through the recognition of sin that leads to asking forgiveness and turning away from the sinful way of life back to God, that hope becomes alive. This leads to restoration, forgiveness, prosperity, peace, harmony and joy with God. Indeed, Isaiah proclaimed a joyful hope for the people through the birth of a child who will be with us.
Hence, joy is promised to us when we allow God to be with us, to transform us and allow him to be our God. And it begins with repentance and in recognizing that we need God. This means that when we begin to be less self-centered, less arrogant and less greedy, the more we come closer to God. And the more we come closer to God, the more we recognize Him too, not just in our life but also in the life of those who are next to us. Thus, what is being “zoomed in” is God and not ourselves; what is being maximized is grace rather than sin, forgiveness rather than guilt, love rather than hate.
So, how do we allow God to come to us and transform us as what has been told by Isaiah? John invites today to “prepare the way of the Lord and make his paths straight.” This is where we can find the preaching of John about “hope.” John proclaimed “hope” as he reminded the people that salvation is possible, that peace and freedom from sin is possible. This hope dawns on us when we start recognizing our sinfulness rather than the sins of others. Hope becomes alive when we humble ourselves before God to accept that we are in need of mercy.
Hence, preparing God’s way to our heart means to take away anything that prevents us from allowing God to come closer to us.
We may reflect today, what are my un-confessed sins that need repentance? What are my selfish tendencies that keep me away from others and from God?
Hopefully, this Season of Advent may truly become a preparation for us to encounter God daily and to celebrate with joy the birth of Jesus on Christmas day, as we make ourselves more available to God and for others. As a shoot will sprout from a stump, we may allow God also to grow in our hearts, allowing him to occupy more space in our life. Ok lang? Sana all.
Jom Baring, CSsR