The Second Sunday of Advent [C]
Bar 5:1-9 + Phil 1:4-6,8-11 + Lk 3:1-6
December 9, 2018
“A voice of one crying out in the desert….”
Are you afraid of the dark? God wants you to enter into a dark place during this season of Advent. That’s what the practice of penance and the Sacrament of Confession are about: putting aside your usual self-denial, and entering into the dark places in your conscience. In those places, you hide your knowledge of the sins you have done, and the good you have failed to do. In that darkness, Christ can appear as light, if you are willing to allow Him entrance.
The beginning of today’s Gospel passage puts St. John the Baptist’s ministry in its worldly context, by spelling out what sort of men governed the world into which the Messiah was born. These pagan and Jewish leaders were corrupt. This is why Saint Luke mentions them, so that we understand that John—and Jesus after him—faced up-hill battles.
St. John the Baptist “went about the entire region of the Jordan proclaiming a baptism of repentance which led to the forgiveness of sins.” This might strike us as a rather holy endeavor. But imagine if John were to appear on your own doorstep. It’s likely that you would want nothing to do with him, perhaps because of his appearance, but even more likely because of his words. He tells everyone without exception how it is. People like him do not win popularity contests. Fortunately for all of us, entrance into Heaven is not based on popularity, but fidelity.
When St. John the Baptist speaks of sinners, he points out their sins. Yet when he speaks of Christ, he points and shouts, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”
It’s important for you to realize the significance of both of the directions in which St. John is pointing. He points to our sins, so that we see the darkness inside us caused by our sins. But he doesn’t stop there. After pointing to our sinfulness, John points to the Lamb of God, so that we might see the light of Christ, and in Him know forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace: real peace, not the peace offered by the world.
It is not safe to think or act like John the Baptist, of course. But if our love is to abound more and more, as Saint Paul urges us, we must be willing to embrace those whom we do not care for, or even consider as part of God’s plans. We need to recall that we ourselves were once far from the Lord, and that He “has done great things for us.”
Take a very common example of sacrifice to reflect on what God calls us to during Advent. There are a lot of different sacrifices that parents are called to make to prepare for their unborn child. Parents have to be ready to sacrifice space: for example, to figure out where the child is going to sleep. Parents have to be ready to sacrifice money, of course: lots of money, for all sorts of needs.
Parents also have to be ready to sacrifice some of their favorite vices. They have to be ready to become less selfish, and more self-less. The problem for all of us is that the longer we cling to our vices, the more entrenched those vices become in our lives, and the harder they become to give up. This is one of the difficulties faced by those who wait until later in life to bear children.
Yet what is challenging for parents as they prepare for their child, is challenging for each of us as we prepare for the Christ child. The greater the sacrifices that we are willing to make, through examining our consciences, confessing our sins, and accepting the grace of reconciliation, the greater the joy that we will be open to, throughout the entire Christmas Season and throughout this new year of grace.