Homily Second Sunday of Advent Year B: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
· Isaiah 40: 1-5, 9-11;
· Ps 85: 9-14;
· 2 Pet 3:8-14
· Mark 1:1-8
Preparing With Fidelity , Hope And Trust In God
Advent which began last week is a time of preparation for Christmas. It is also a time we renew our faith and hope in the second coming of Christ. Unlike lent, it is not a time for reflection on Jesus’ passion and death, but a time we re-live the message of hope, optimism, expectation and call for preparedness in the manner of “God’s servant”( (malachi=MT), his angel (aggelou autou= LXX) proclaimed by Israel's prophets, from Isaiah to John the Baptist. We are God’s servants. We are called to be our neighbors’ angel, servants and messengers!
Surely, preparedness for Christmas stands out during Advent scriptures. How do we prepare in the midst of all the problems of life- political, social, economic etc? Scripture readings of today suggest ways for Christmas' preparation. These readings urge us to use our religious imagination and look forward to the future with hope, faith, humility, practice of justice, righteousness, pursuit of peace, and courage no matter the challenges that we encounter daily in life. Watchfulness, alertness and some sense of eagerness and urgency for compassion are also required on every believer’s journey, in history!
A little history is also important. In the 586/7 BC the Babylonians military had overrun Jerusalem and destroyed the temple there. Second Isaiah, among all Israel’s prophet had every reason to “proclaim” this message of hope and comfort to those displaced in exile, “Behold I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way”. The messenger especially the prophecy of Malachi 3:1 (my messenger) is rendered angellou autou (his messenger), in the Greek translation, the LXX. The joy of this affirmation, is that despite all the destruction, disappointments and set-backs around him Isaiah was clearly called to proclaim, or “cry- out” the message of comfort and hope of salvation to his people, hoping to walk the long highway, from Babylon to Jerusalem, the Holy Land. Getting there, Jerusalem shall be rebuilt and the Lord will be like a good shepherd feeding, tendering and caring for his flock in the rebuilt Jerusalem.
In other words, the force of these pronounce “my messenger, my house, way of the Lord,” it is the Lord that leads the way. He does this with care and comfort. Isaiah calls us today, to play our part on this long journey, like God’s servants and instruments by caring for one another-- feeding flock, gathering the lambs in our arms and bosoms, and leading the ewes care.
The second reading (2 Peter 3:8-14) builds on this hopeful, trusting and selfless message of the first reading (Isaiah). Preparation for Christmas, also requires devotion, some sense of urgency, justice, righteousness and peace. Peter says “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire,…since everything is to be dissolved in this way….conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of the God,… in which righteousness dwells, and be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace” (2 Pt 3:8–14). Again, like the way, the day belongs to him and the messengers are his!
Isaiah’s prophecy foreshadowed not only what we have heard in Second Peter but fulfils Gospel messages. Mark’s Gospel today, not surprisingly makes a direct reference to Isaiah, “behold sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way, a voice of one crying out in the desert, prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths (Mark 1:3//Isaiah 40:3, cf. Matt 11:7-10).
In Mark, John the Baptist may have been the servant not Isaiah. But what Isaiah announced thousands of years before him, is what John the Baptists proclaimed from the desert, during his time, about the coming of Christ. For us, it is this Christ, God’s Son that we prepare for at Christmas, through repentance, baptism, conversion, works of charity, forgiveness, humility, modeling leadership and prophetic virtues of justice, patience, prudence, modesty and faith in the one mightier than us!
Today we live in a pluralistic society with various socio-cultural, political and leadership challenges, including threats of war, terrorism, poverty, widening gap between the "haves" and the have-nots." The more reason we are invited to reexamined the many pastoral ways we can prepare for Christmas. What have been suggested in today’s scriptures include humility in walking the way, humility in preaching, leading and serving the people, especially the poor, and importantly an awareness that we are God’s servant. We are his instruments and agents of evangelization. The way, the house belong to him. This awareness is achievable provided we placed our faith and trust in God’s fidelity.
1. How do we prepare for Christmas? As a good shepherd or as a wolf?
2. How are we feeding the flock, the lambs and the ewes entrusted to us, with care?
3. Do we see ourselves as God’s Malachi (messengers), aggelou autou (his angel) as we prepare for Christmas?
4. How do we humbly, prophetically lead, help members of our faith communities to prepare for Christmas, in the manner God’s servant recommended in today’s scripture passages?