• Rev. Lawrence E. Polansky

2nd Sunday of Advent (B)

“Make straight the paths of the Lord.”

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 40:1-5, 9-11 — “Prepare the way of the Lord.”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 85:9-10, 11-12, 13-14 — “Lord, let us see Your kindness, and grant us Your salvation.”

Second Reading: 2 Pet 3:8-14 — “We await new heavens and a new earth.”

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: Mk 1:1-8 — “Make straight the paths of the Lord.”

Communion Antiphon: Ps 106(105):4-5; Is 38:3 — “Come, O Lord, visit us in peace, that we may rejoice before You with a blameless heart.

A middle-age woman was having a near-death experience in the operating room. She asks God if she is going to die. God says no and explains that she has another 30 to 40 years to live.

With all those bonus years assured, she decides to make the most of them by staying on at the hospital to have an “extreme makeover.” She has a face-lift, liposuction, breast augmentation and a tummy tuck. She even changes her hair color to platinum blonde. As a “new” woman, she proudly sashays out of the hospital and is struck and killed by a speeding ambulance at the entrance.

At the Pearly Gates she confronts God and tells Him, “I thought you said I had another 30 to 40 years!”

God’s response … “Sorry … I didn’t recognize you.

Moral of the story: We can’t be all about ourselves and forget to look at how what we do, what we say, or how we act affects those around us.

We hear three special words from Isaiah in the first reading: “Give,” “Speak,” “Proclaim.” “Comfort, give comfort to My people, says your God. 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.” “Give,” “Speak,” “Proclaim.” Those are not words that allow us to be self-centered. We can use these words to help us embrace and live the message of our Scripture readings this weekend and every day.

In our First Reading from the Isaiah, we hear the prophet no longer speaking words of warning to a wayward people. Now he cries out to them with words of comfort. “Comfort, give comfort to my people.” Speaking for the Lord, the prophet tells Jerusalem to go up on a high mountain and “ ... fear not to cry out to the cities of Judah: Here is your God! God has even won for you a reward!” What is that reward? Like a shepherd, God is bringing the lambs (God’s people) back to Judah … He’s bringing them home out of exile.

In the Second Reading, Saint Peter gives to the early Christians good and promising news. Saint Peter proclaims that Jesus is the promised Messiah who has come, who offered His life on the cross for our salvation and He will come again in glory. He reminds the people that the day of the Lord, Jesus’ return in glory … the day of new heavens and a new earth … will come in God’s time. While they wait for that great day, they should “be eager to be found without spot or blemish before Him, at peace.”

In Saint Mark’s Gospel, we hear John the Baptist proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. In this way, he prepared for the coming Messiah … the One who is mightier. John confesses that he is not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of Jesus’ sandals. Jesus will baptize, not merely with water, but with the Holy Spirit.

So what do the readings say for us today? Well … we are like all three groups being addressed in the readings this weekend. We are like the Israelites of Isaiah’s time, the people of John the Baptist’s time who waited for the Messiah, and we are like the early Christians who awaited the Lord’s second coming in glory. While we wait, we are comforted by Isaiah’s word, for like a shepherd, Jesus has fed us and continues to feed us with His Word in Scripture, with His Body and Blood in the Eucharist, with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and with the love we have for one another as God’s children. And while we wait, we are called to ready ourselves, to make every effort to be without spot or blemish and at peace in God’s sight.

Advent is a time to turn away from absorption in ourselves and our worries. It’s not about being wrapped up in ourselves like the woman in the opening story. It is a time to rejoice that God wants to find new ways of coming into our lives … like a shepherd caring for his sheep. The images we have had over the past few weeks of the shepherd and the sheep … are providential in a way. And something else to consider … on that first Christmas night so long ago, think about the individuals who heard the good news proclaimed by the angels first. “Give,” “Speak,” “Proclaim.”

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul, with all your mind and all your strength; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself." Today as we approach the altar of the Lord, we should be confident in God’s love for us in Jesus, the promised Messiah. We need to welcome Jesus into our hearts as He gives Himself to us today and every day in such remarkable ways … in Word, in Sacrament, and in those around us. He speaks about the love of God and our need to love Him. He is our model … “Do unto others as I would do unto you.” He proclaims the Good News by word and by action. We need to do the same.

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