2nd Sunday of Advent ~ 4 December 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Isaiah 11: 1-10; Responsorial: Palm 72; II: Romans 15: 4-9; Gospel: Matthew 3: 1-12
This second Sunday of Advent we light another violet candle. The first candle symbolizes hope. This second candle represents peace. In anticipation, in preparation for the coming of Christ our King into our lives, our Church should be faithfully working to nourish hearts and homes for Christ in hope and peace. God’s Word as always gives us light far more beautiful and brighter than any Christmas decorations. This holy light shines brightly upon the true path of Advent, repentance, and the guide and power of this glorious way. We are all called, as individual Christians and as God’s Church to be following, living in the way of radical, true repentance, or penance. The way of God’s love.
“Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” proclaims the prophet, John the Baptist. The prophet was seeking to prepare the way for the coming, the incarnation, the birth of Jesus, the Christ. But the words are just as urgent and relevant today, over two thousand years later as we prepare for the return of Jesus, the King of Kings. As Catholics, we recognize and would seek the holy place of penance, the Sacrament of Reconciliation. But we all must remember that very Biblical grace-filled act is but a starting place of renewed journeying in the way of Jesus.
In times past (and for some people now) repentance would mean great mortification of self, of the flesh, and often an embrace of self-punishments intended to mortify the flesh. The intent of these perceptions may have been good but their pursuit often resulted in the grave injury of spirit, soul, and body. Yet for many of us who seek to grow in Christ, we may want to know the way of radical repentance or penance. Should we wear an hair shirt? Should we eat only bread and water? What would God ask of us if we are truly seeking the kingdom of heaven?
Again let us follow the light of the Living Word. As our Gospel calls us to be a people of penance our other readings enrich that Gospel with the instruction that we are to be a people infused in the Holy Spirit, The Spirit of Christ so eloquently described by Isaiah the prophet. It is one of the great tasks of the Holy Spirit to lead us to sanctification in Christ. This cleansing journey, the work of faithful penance is a walk not of specific acts but a way of life. To be following in radical repentance is to be growing in the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
In our second reading from St. Paul we read: “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another, in keeping with Jesus Christ Jesus that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It was in this same letter of St. Paul to the church at Rome that the way to achieve this was by walking in the Holy Spirit, together, away from our sins, in the love of God. (Romans 8).
The same Spirit that caused St. John the Baptist to call us to repentance is proclaimed to be coming from Christ in a baptism of strength and fire. And it is this same Holy Spirit that nourishes in holiness to be fruitful, bearing genuine, real fruit of our penance. The fruits of the Holy Ghost are numerous. But always the first and foremost is love. If we were to seek to be fruitful of God in all His ways this first fruit of grace would bring them all.
This holy season of Advent we are reminded that it is God’s love that brings our King and Savior to come in glory and justice. It is in this reverent season we realize that it was for love God chose a manger in a stable in which to be born. This love of God is rooted deep in the power of the Paraclete to vanquish fear, to quench ignorance, and to be a people of mercy and holy welcome spoken of by Paul in our second reading.
In our personal faith and lives, this commitment to radical repentance will bring us to…love as God loves us. We will grow in that same self-emptying that helps us see all that would hinder us from growing in our Yes! to God. We will grow in letting go of the effort to protect or hide our seeming assets and treasures and instead simply seek to live in the way of simple Gospel faith, hope and peace.
But the path of radical repentance is not just meant for the individual believer. The Church, the Body of Christ is called to be prepared for Christ our Savior and King. Sadly, in that, we are people seeking to follow Christ our God we, as a body fail, and we may sin in efforts to make the journey we seek easier. But this truth does not dismiss our responsibility to God, each other and the world. Sadly history shows us the ways Christians have molded the message of the Gospel with sin, strife, and unforgiveness. That some who profess Christ espouse messages of hate and bigotry are but one cruel example. That some clergy in all parts of the Christian faith have abused and wronged young people is a sin that cannot be denied or that should ever be covered up. Again as for individuals so for the church, the efforts to avoid responsibility or hide assets that could be used in reparations are simply wrong. What if property is lost? What if lavish churches, musical programs, vestments, and practices cannot be maintained? What if the world, wounded souls could see a radical repentance in practice that expressed a true sorrow for sin and a deep hunger for God and healing forgiveness?
Advent is a time to renew and deepen our hearts for God in true, radical repentance. It is a time in which we can grow in the freedom and power of the Holy Spirit that would guide us to let go of our pride and earthly riches and instead invest in a simple, holy love that brings us to Jesus and brings us to better give Christ to the world.