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  • Rev. Lawrence E. Polansky

2nd Sunday of Advent (A)


Mackinac, Golden Gate, and Ambassador. Recognize these names? How about Walt Whitman, Ben Franklin, Betsy Ross, Commodore Barry, and Tacony Palmyra? How about them? They are all bridges, right? We are attracted both to their architecture: whether they are covered or suspension … draw or multi-level ... and we are drawn to their purpose ... to link two states, to span a river, or to reduce driving time to get from one place to another.

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Entrance Antiphon: Is 30:19, 30“O people of Sion, behold, the Lord will come to save the nations, and the Lord will make the glory of His voice heard in the joy of your heart.”

First Reading: Is 11:1-10“He shall judge the poor with justice.”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17“Justice shall flourish in His time, and fullness of peace forever.”

Second Reading: Rom 15:4-9“Christ saves everyone.”

Alleluia: Lk 3:4, 6 “Alleluia, alleluia. Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths: all flesh shall see the salvation of God. Alleluia, alleluia.”

Gospel: Mt 3:1-12 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

Communion Antiphon: Bar 5:5; 4:36“Jerusalem, arise and stand upon the heights, and behold the joy which comes to you from God.”

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Another bridge bears the name John the Baptist. He doesn’t span the Jordan River but he brought people to its shores. He is a link or bridge between the Old and the New Testaments. We are drawn to him as to the other bridges both by reason of his architecture as well as his purpose, captivated both by the man and his message, the person and his role.

The architecture of John the Baptist reveals a desert nomad and prophet clothed in a camel hair robe fastened with a crude leather belt. He feasts on a diet that would send any self-respecting goat to look for a higher class dump.

To a large degree, the man is his message. The style of his message resembles his lifestyle. His words are harsh, no frills ... they tell it like it is. The Pharisees learned this as they heard him call them “brood of vipers.” The theme of his words is “Reform your lives.” It calls to mind a description of Isaiah, whom we meet in today’s First Reading: “He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.”

Reform your lives ... more gift than demand. Part of the crowd who came to hear John the Baptist probably did so in hopes of hearing John lambaste the Pharisees. “Did you hear what he called them?” they remark to one another. Another part of the crowd, probably most, were attracted by his call: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” But in today’s society, we are not inclined to go any distance to hear someone tell us to repent, shape up, change our ways, are we?. We would probably find a way to take a detour, to avoid hearing it, or take offense and just stop going all together, right?

Those who came on their own to hear John must have understood something that many miss. They must have seen John’s call more as gift than demand. The assumption that underlies the call to repent is that it is possible. To be able to repent means that I am not trapped by my past. I am not a prisoner of former habits. We don’t have to do it this way today because that’s the way we’ve always done it. My future is not determined by my past. To be invited to repent is a vote of confidence in our future. The Lord is not giving up on us, nor should we give up on ourselves.

The call to repent is a challenge (that sounds a lot nicer than a demand, doesn't it?). A challenge is what we hear from someone who loves us and wants us to be all that we can be ... but again, we humans in this day and age have honed a skill at diluting challenges.

For example, we diet rather than fast ... we hold garage sales and give away what doesn’t sell ... we defer John’s Advent agenda, pleading we are too busy Christmas shopping. And perhaps you’ve heard this before, too ... we put more effort into preparing for Christmas than for Christ. The change that John invites us to embrace is not merely cosmetic. It is to be a real inner, deep-rooted change. It isn’t just a car wash but a complete engine overhaul. God’s grace wants to turn us inside out.

Isaiah’s beautiful vision of a peaceable kingdom is a backdrop for John’s talk of repentance. He knows that we must first be new people before we can do new things. The “I have a dream” of Isaiah requires changed people. He invites us to make it a reality. Wouldn’t that be a great Christmas gift!

John Wooden, the former basketball coach for UCLA, once said, “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.” Those Johns … John the Baptist and John Wooden know how to tell it like it is! Let’s listen to our coaches ... the two Johns. Let’s join John and Isaiah and make Advent into an adventure.

The ritual of pouring water gave John his name or title. Coming forward to be baptized was a public statement of intending to become someone new. Celebrating the Liturgy is also something that involves a future plan of action. We ritualize our commitment to reform … we ritualize our commitment to build a peaceable kingdom. And through the reception of the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, we are given the vision and energy to do so.

#Advent #02nd #repent #reform #bridge #JohntheBaptist

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