This is the clarion call we receive for this 2nd Sunday of Advent. Preparation is indeed the message that’s in the air as we are bombarded with all sorts of advertising right now... to find the perfect gift, create the perfect meal, decorate the perfect home, all the while surrounded by the perfect sense of family. Trouble is, when we seek this type of perfection, we often find ourselves disappointed. Not only have we missed the point of the season, we’ve allowed the secular world to obfuscate our understanding of the Gospel message…
The Word for the 2nd Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
Psalm 85:9-10, 11-12, 13-14
2 Peter 3:8-14
We open with one of the finest songs of forgiveness and triumph from the Prophet Isaiah. There is an established pattern in all of our worship… that before we ask for something from God, we first must ask him for forgiveness for our sins. We see this every time we celebrate the Mass as we begin with the Penitential Rite. Preparation, in the truest Judeo-Christian form, means approaching God (and one another) with a clear conscience… with an unburdened heart and a cleansed soul. Isaiah recognizes that the people’s sufferings in Exile have been more than sufficient payment for their sins, and God in his compassionate mercy, doesn’t merely forgive their sins, but states that “her guilt is expiated,” as if that sin had never existed. From this then comes the triumphant prophecy of the end of their exile. By recognizing their mistakes, they have opened themselves to salvation… a promise echoed in our Psalm.
But how long until we are saved? This is the question St. Peter is faced with in our second reading. The communities to which he is writing were made a promise… that by renouncing sin and following the way of Christ they would be saved. The next obvious question, then, is “when?” Peter, in the voice of the wise Church elder, reminds us to be patient. In a society where we are increasingly accustomed to instant gratification, rushing around to make sure everything is ready for the holidays, Peter’s message serves as a poignant reminder for us all; we should be patient and focus instead on how we are conducting ourselves.
Our Gospel then takes us to the opening of Mark’s Gospel, where we hear again those same words from Isaiah, prepare the way of the Lord. In this case, the announcement of John the Baptist preparing the people for the one who is to come… Jesus, the Christ. An how does he prepare the people? By baptizing them in the Jordan River as they acknowledge their sins.
We are all attracted to the idea of having the “perfect” holiday. But none of us are perfect. We all come with some baggage. But guess what… God knows that. And yet he still wants us. God isn’t looking for us to be perfect, but he does expect us to take stock of our failings, acknowledge our sins, and strive to learn from those mistakes for the betterment of all. This is how we prepare for the coming of the Lord. Repent, give thanks, and then give praise.
When I think about Advent I think about cleaning my kitchen before preparing something special. All the dishes from previous meals need to be clean and put away. The counter tops need to be cleared to have plenty of working space. All the items I need to cook with need to be clean, staged, and standing ready. How, I ask myself, could anyone cook in a dirty, disorganized kitchen? You can’t. No good cook would. The first order of business is always to make sure everything is cleaned and organized before you start. This is Advent. This is the time to clean the dishes, to cleans our souls, to organize and prioritize our lives for the feast that is the coming of Christ. So let go of the commercial chaos of the holidays and take this opportunity to “clean your kitchen, ” and prepare the way of the Lord.