Tuesday, December 1, 2015

2nd Sunday of Advent

A promise fulfilled.  This is the promise of Advent.  This is the promise of Christ.  As we begin our new Liturgical cycle with this season of Advent, we take a lesson from the prophets… that our hope for salvation will be fulfilled.  How do I know this?  Let’s look at our readings for this week…

Baruch 5:1-9
Psalm 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6
Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11
Luke 3:4, 6

Our first reading is from the Book of Baruch, who was an assistant to the prophet Jeremiah.  Jeremiah, as we may remember from our readings last week, is one of the prophets of the Babylonian Exile.  The Book of Baruch is reflective of that same period, though unlike the Book of Jeremiah, no known Hebrew version of this book has been found, making it one of the Bible’s Deuterocanonical books (those included in the Catholic Bible, but not the Hebrew or Protestant Bibles).  In our passage for this week, Jerusalem (currently in Exile) is told to “take off your robe of mourning and misery” and to “put on the splendor of glory from God forever.”  In other words, Jerusalem shall rise again, and be a beacon to God’s glory.  God is making a promise to his people, and though it might sound like a tall order given their situation, our Psalm reminds us “the Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.”

Our second reading is from Paul’s letter to the Philippians.  In a passage from the letter’s opening greeting, Paul encouraging the community (and us) to continue the work that has begun, and that in doing so, will be prepared for “the day of Christ.”  That while we gain salvation through Christ, we also need to stay vigilant in following the path of the Gospel in order to maintain that state of grace.

Our Gospel from Luke then sets the stage for our journey toward salvation by literally setting the stage.  The opening of this third chapter has Luke putting his narrative into a specific historical context (in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberious Caesar).  This device not only provides a historical context for the listener, but is used to reinforce the fact that Jesus was part of that history.  Not a myth.  Not made up.  An actual person placed here by God in that place at that time to fulfill the promise God made through his prophets.  And now our gospel presents us with the last of the prophets before Jesus, John the Baptist, who through the words of Isaiah, has come to tell us that salvation is at hand.

Final Thoughts:
When I was boy the Promise of Christmas was that Santa Clause would come with presents on Christmas Eve, provided of course, that we managed to stay on the “nice” list.  And if your childhood was like mine, nothing could replace the joy we felt on Christmas morning to find the stockings stuffed and the tree surrounded by presents.  As adults now, however, you may feel you’re well past that understanding of the Promise of Christmas.  But I’ve got news for you… for according to our readings the Promise of Christmas remains alive and well and waiting for us.  Santa, in this case, is Christ himself, and his gift:  Salvation!  And if we want a truly Catholic understanding of what the second coming will be like… remember what it was like when you were a child on Christmas Eve.

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