Second Sunday of Advent ‘B’ – Fr. Rick Sherman
Is. 40:1-5, 9-11; Ps. 84:9-14; 2 Peter 3:8-14; Mk. 1:1-8
December 6, 2020
I suppose most of you have heard about this mysterious obelisk or monolith or art form that was recently discovered out in the desert in SE Utah. A week later it has just as mysteriously disappeared. This 10 foot piece of shiny metal, so alien to the desolate red rock landscape, became national and even international news as an object of true fascination to many people. It quickly became a site of pilgrimage to a number of people, hundreds in fact, just within the one week of its presence. Of course this beautiful pristine area was quickly trashed and maybe even permanently damaged in some ways with all the waste and various types of vehicular traffic.
On Friday I listened to an extended hour-long conversation on Kuer’s Radio West about the various phenomena surrounding this curious discovery. It was described as a pleasant diversion from the weariness and cooped up lives of many people. Between the ultra-contentious election, the pandemic and the economic instability of many, we are living in a surreal world that is hard to understand. It seems that many were perhaps hoping to see an extraterrestrial object that could just beam us up into a different world. To others, this art form was a welcomed escape from the monotony and dreariness of our times. As mentioned, this story became a fascination and curiosity to the global community in a matter of hours.
It seems as though so many are looking for something radically different; perhaps a mystery that will reveal more about the meaning of life. The current view of life and values are simply not satisfying to a whole lot of people. I couldn’t help but think of this Sunday’s readings that promise the very radical change that humans need and for which we yearn by our very nature.
The readings today all point to God’s mercy and to His deepest desire to prepare us to receive His love. To receive all the love for which He created us. Many of us already have remarkably gifted lives and it’s easy to believe that God loves us. We have experienced God’s mercy and generosity throughout our lives. Remarkably, God wants to give us even more; more than our little human minds can even fathom.
The very presence and description of John the Baptist tells us we are in for something much different than what we have come to expect from life. John the Baptist does not look or act like the other prophets (except for perhaps the leather belt which recurs in Scripture in the description of prophets). He certainly does not resemble the religious authorities of his day, yet his admonition to “REPENT!” certainly rings with a legitimate higher authority. He has gotten peoples’ attention. AND as commanding and powerful as his presence is, he declares that one much mightier that he is coming to make some real changes. From what we know of conditions in first century Palestine, most of the people yearned for change and something much better.
This commanding figure is PREfigured in our first reading today from the prophet Isaiah, centuries before John the Baptist. First the savior will expiate Israel from their sins. They have suffered greatly for their infidelities and now God is promising them a new start and an even greater experience of God’s love and generosity. The language of reshaping the very earth might begin to help us understand the magnitude of what is to come. “Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low; the rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley. Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (I have to admit this language bristles my tree-hugger sensibilities, but for our times it is figurative language).
For those of us living in relative comfort and safety, it’s probably hard for us to understand how desperately people needed to hear this promise of better times. How much they yearned for a different world, with different rules and different rulers. Many people, obviously still yearn for better times, for a better place. Why the delay? Why doesn’t God just reign in this better world described in today’s psalm: A place where: “Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven. The LORD himself will give his benefits; our land shall yield its increase. Justice shall walk before him, and prepare the way of his steps.” Many people in the world today, even in our prosperous and relatively safe nation would cry out the psalm’s refrain “Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.
The second reading today from St. Peter reminds us that, “The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” This long delay is one way God shows His great mercy. Too many of us are simply not ready for the judgement. Sadly, it often takes times of great suffering and desperation for us to finally turn to God and prepare ourselves for His love. Peter reminds us ‘what sort of persons ought we to be, conducting ourselves in holiness and devotion.’ We are ‘to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.’ A land of justice, truth and peace will only be appreciated and sustainable amidst a people who are genuinely righteous and truthful. There’s much work to be done.
Those of us who are relatively safe and comfortable must imitate John and Jesus as heralds of this new heaven and new earth. We must be about the changes promised by God. How do we level the playing field, so to speak? How do we make straight the path for those who are wandering desperately in the desert without needed direction?
Today and next week in the bulletin we can see some good examples of how we can prepare and help others prepare for the love that God yearns to give us. The Spiritual works of Mercy are indeed some of the essential elements of not just Kingdom building and nation teaching, but also healing, consolation and reconciliation. Please study these works of mercy and apply them the best you can.
Also, if you have not already done so, please pick up a complimentary copy of the Word Among Us and our missalettes for Advent and Christmas time. Most of all, be prepared to give others your reasons for hope in a better, more meaningful world.