Homily Second Sunday of Advent Year B- Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Isaiah 40: 1-5, 9-11; Ps 85: 9-14; 2 Pet 3:8-14 and Mark 1:1-8
Preparing for the Comforting Jesus!
Amazing! December is already here, the very month Christ was born at Christmas! Few days ago, precisely in the darkness of that Thursday December,1st, here in the United States, President Barack Obama, Michelle the First Lady and the family lighted the Christmas tree, in preparation to welcome Christ the Light! Still on the same note of preparation, today we specifically celebrate the Second Sunday of Advent. Maybe I should call it “A Sunday of Comfort” or “Advent of Comfort,” the Coming of Comfort, (Nᾱham in Hebrew) at Christmas!
Usually when we expect an important guest, a royal guest, be it in our homes, seminary or other work places, and companies, we usually put up a commensurate royal external preparation, call it, “path clearing.” By doing this, we want to be warm and compassionate. We want to make our guest comfortable, feel at home, and perhaps impress him or her, a little bit with the thoroughness of our preparations!
In our faith and spiritual contexts getting ready for Christ at Christmas and at his second coming (Parousia) is a lot of work. Since Christ comes with love, comfort, forgiveness of sin, glory, care, and the tenderness of a Good Shepherd (John 10), much of a spiritual preparation is also expected from us, as expressed in the Scriptures today.
The first reading brings comforting words to a people whose whole world was in disarray and hopelessness; people who had no comfort and security. The first reading summarizes the theology of exile (vv 1-2). It gives reasons why there was exile at all. Of course it was not because of God’s lack of power, love and protection. Rather it was in response to people’s negligence of their faith in God, their sin. With Israel's endurance and atonement, the Lord uses the mouth of the prophets to bring them comfort and hope, which they needed so badly.
“Comfort, give comfort to my people, says, the lord. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her , that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated; indeed, she has received from the hand of the lord double for all her sins”(Isa 40:1-2).
" Comfort my people." ! The Good news, is that Israel is God’s people. God is forgiving and mighty. He can do and undo. He can provide water in the desert and food in the wilderness. He will not only liberate them, but will act like a Gentle Palestine Shepherd, feeding, gathering, carrying and bringing Israel safely to Jerusalem as a shepherd would to his flock ( Isa 40: 11). What a comforting message! However, Israel must prepare.
This message of preparedness is renewed and more spiritually deepened in the Gospel (Mark 1:1-8) and in the Second Reading (2 Pet 3:8-14). In the Gospel, humbly enough, John the Baptist, bears/heralds this message of preparation, the Good News, the glad tidings, the euangelion (mebasseret Isa 40:9) through his call for baptism of repentance, with forgiveness of sins.
In the same spirit, 2 Peter warns against lack of remorse and repentance. It warns against the danger of false teachers and doctrines, which may still be prevalent in our society today in all forms, sometimes in media, radio and disguise of abuse of journalism, politics and religion.
Rather Advent reminds us of God’s role in our lives and journeys. It is the reason that we want to constantly be aware of the truth, the importance of the Word of God, the promises of God, His care, love and mighty deeds in history, His Covenant with us-fulfilled in Christ. Particularly, in Advent we do not want to forget the importance of shared comfort in our salvation history. Israel needed one at that time. One of their prophets was even named "Comfort"= Nahum. I am pretty sure we still need one today. It is so important. In fact, one of my cousins is named "Comfort."
In the new translation of the Nicene Creed we say individually but collectively "I believe." I believe, and I know you believe too, that Christ’s comfort is needed in our homes, in our hearts, communities and in our places of work. Those who have lost their loved ones, the poor, the homeless, jobless, and many others, who are going through all kinds of physical and psychological tragedies, need comfort.
Each of us has received certain comforts and blessings from Jesus Christ. How we share this “divine comfort” with our neighbors, is how we shall prepare for Christmas and the Parousia.