2nd Sunday of Advent ~ 6 December 2020

Bible Readings for Mass: I: Isaiah 40: 1-5, 9-11; Responsorial: Psalm 85; II: II Peter 3:8-14; Gospel: Mark 1:1-8

“Prepare the Way of the Lord…” These words from the Prophet Isaiah resound in the first reading and the Gospel this Second Sunday of Advent. For those of us who are fans of George Frederick Handel and especially The Messiah these words resonate in the beautiful opening Accompagnato. We can hear the Holy Spirit call to us to become and be the people of the Messiah proclaiming and living the comforting hope of His grace and preparing the ways for Christ to come into our hearts and lives and in the the lives of all creation.

This message resonates this year in ways unimagined last Advent. We are a people needing to follow the way that is Christ as we hunger for and seek His coming. This Second Sunday of Advent we face the probable reality that Advent liturgies, the celebration of the Christmas will be deeply restrained in our parishes and families. In the shared call to heed the health and welfare of ourselves and our neighbors the ability to gather will be a hope we seek, hopefully in the coming calendar year. But these challenges in no way hinder or compromise our ability as individuals, as faith communities, as families to fully and joyfully seek our coming Lord and to Prepare the Way of the Lord ~ A Path to a Better Future.

This past year has been a year of crises. In health, economies, in nations, especially our own, politically and worldwide in our shared home, the environment. This flood of crisis could well overwhelm us as we see this year draw to a close. But these shared challenges present to us incomparable opportunities of grace, opportunities to prepare for our coming King as never before. Prayerfully, to help us all awaken and heed these gifts I want to share a new book written by Pope Francis entitled: Let Us Dream – A Path to a Better Future. I would ask, urge, each of you to read this as a special grace this Advent to help us, together to Prepare the Way of the Lord. I just received my copy and am deeply moved. Although I have not finished reading this short book I want to use the chapters to help us this extraordinary Advent. It is beautifully written but it also calls us to face some deep, difficult challenges as people of the Messiah.

As we heed the Scriptures for today (and yes PLEASE prayerfully read the Word of God for Mass) we see this message so powerfully proclaimed: PREPARE the Way of the LORD, Make Straight His Path. In the Gospels of late Jesus has been calling us to Prepare, Be Ready, Listen, Watch! If the events alone of this past year do not awaken in us this call of God in our lives we are in a very dangerous place. Much is happening. We are called, not to be spectators, but participants in these events of grace. We are called to dream and prepare for a better future that of a future where God and His ways prevail. Not just in a aspect of liturgy or devotion but in and through all our lives and creation.

In the book of Pope Francis he helps us understand that indeed we are in times of intense crisis. They are as our Holy father expresses times of reckoning. The Covid 19 perils have forced the world to realize immense dangers and unprecedented demands for care and solutions. So many medical professionals have sacrificed, even their lives as they have sought to help the sick and dying. Tragically, sadly, so many have mocked the pandemic, refused to even wear a mask, sharing their convictions that it is all an hoax. Indeed it is a time of reckoning.

The crises realities are also seen in the political/social upheavals where the once simple conviction that we are all Americans working for a common good, even with our many differences is not what many proclaim or live. The divisions and strifes between diverse peoples is a deadly horror that we must, together respond to. And with the divisive strife between liberal and conservative, Democrat or Republican we face wounds needing healing mercy.

And the crises of our environment, of climate change, would cause those who will listen to hear Creation crying out, begging for mercy. The lack of rain in California, the unprecedented hurricanes in the gulf, wildfires in normally green and damp Scandinavia, huge tracks of rain forest destroyed in South America, vast miles of plastic floating and polluting our oceans all bear a harsh witness of the greed and neglect of humanity.

The disregard of life, yes for the unborn, but also for the living, the homeless, the refugees of climate change and political oppression, those dying of hunger for bread and water as as those hungering for love and belonging all call out to God for mercy and justice.

All these, and more are what Pope Francis would call us to see and to hear. IF we are to prepare the way of the Lord, if we are to dream we must awaken to the living nightmares so many are suffering. We cannot afford to be like the proud Pharisees who just crossed the road as they came upon the man robbed and injured. To free the dreams of God within us we must see, hear the suffering and sorrows of the world, of humanity and then allow His grace to free His mercy and grace to prepare His ways. We must see the sufferings of all creatures and realize the sufferings of the Creator calls us to choose.

Life is continually a time of choosing. Advent is a time of special holy grace to look at our choices and to improve them for God, others and ourself. It is a time to repent. ALL the faithful are called to prepare the way of the Lord. We can become very comfortable in how we think that is to be done, by others and ourself. We can become, frankly, very set in our ways of following Jesus, of our worship, of our discipleship. And we can fall asleep in our faith. Crisis awakens us. Whether we want to or not we have to face truth and our call to grow in The Truth, Jesus. So God allows pandemics, wildfires and evacuations, personal crises, community changes and crises. He does so that we will see and listen to what is happening and hear His voices calling us to respond and prepare His Way.

We can choose denial and indifference. We can choose judgement and dismissal of others we deem unworthy. We can choose to pretend this earth is fine and what happens elsewhere is really not my concern or responsibility. We can choose to do anything else but…pray and act. Or.

We can choose to prayerfully prepare His Way. We can choose to see our world, each other, ourselves in His mercy and plan. We can choose to act, to build bridges of mercy and life instead of walls denial, indifference and pride. We can choose to heed the Psalmist for today as we seek to prepare ways where:

Kindness and truth shall meet, Justice and peace shall kiss, Truth shall spring out of the earth and justice look down from heaven.” ~ Psalm 85

We can choose to understand and realize our coming King is Lord of Heaven AND EARTH and that when he calls us home He will want to see how we cared for, treated our earthly home and the creation , the fellow creatures with which we shared. Or not.

It is as we see, hear, as we make our choices we will know it is time to act. To prepare the Way of God. This is eternally more than just how we may worship or pray. It is how we ACT in the whole of life. This season of Advent is a time when God would shake us and say, WAKE UP! It is time to be ready. It is a time to make ready the Way of the King. Our Advent and Christmas liturgies will not be as we would want or choose this strange year. But they can, nevertheless, be grace-filled and joyful times, in ways we would never expect. Advent, and especially Christmas are times filled with dreams. So it would be for those willing to Prepare the Way of the Lord and to build a path to a better future, a path more fully into the Presence and love who is our God.

“This is a moment to dream big, to rethink our priorities – what we value, what we want, what we seek – and to commit to act in our daily life on what we have dreamed of. What I hear at this moment is similar to what Isaiah hears God saying through him: ‘Come let us talk this over. Let us dare to dream.” ~ Pope Francis in Let Us Dream – The Path to a Better Future.