The Second Sunday of Advent [A]

The Immaculate Conception is transferred this year to Monday, December 9.  For the reflections and resources for the Immaculate Conception, click HERE.

Isa 11:1-10  +  Rom 15:4-9  +  Mt 3:1-12
click on the line above for the day’s Scriptures

   “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths.”   

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click HERE to watch Jeff Cavins’ reflection for this liturgical Sunday (3:33)

click HERE to read the homily of Monsignor Charles Pope for this Sunday

click HERE to watch the homily of Fr. Andrew Apostoli, CFR for this Sunday (27:20)

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click HERE to read Pope Francis’ 2016 Angelus address for this Sunday

click HERE to read Pope Emeritus Benedict’s 2010 Angelus address for this Sunday

click HERE to read St. John Paul II’s 1998 homily for this Sunday

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On the one hand, preparing for Christmas is played out in many traditional ways.  We take comfort in the sights, sounds, and smells of the season.  We look forward to seeing the traditional signs that tell us that Christmas draws near.

On the other hand, Scripture tells us during Advent to expect the unexpected.  The Old Testament prophet Isaiah, who lived seven centuries before Jesus, prophesied about a day that was to come in the future.  Isaiah preached about that future day on which the Messiah—the Savior of the Jews—would appear and set things right in the world.  But Isaiah’s prophecy is a little strange.  It’s unexpected.  That’s one reason why Isaiah was rejected.

Isaiah begins his prophecy with the words:  “On that day….”  That day will be unexpected, a day of strange sights and sounds.  The images that Isaiah describes seem to be contradictions:  the lion eating hay and the wolf as the guest of the lamb.  But then comes the most disturbing image, especially if we think of the manger in Bethlehem.

“The baby shall play by the cobra’s den, and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.”  We would never expect to see this image in real life.  In fact, if a person is a parent, it’s the last image he or she would want to see.

Isaiah probably used these images because of a baby’s innocence and how it contrasts with the cunning and danger of the serpent.  But whether Isaiah knew it or not, his image also sums up the meaning of Christmas.  God the Son, who existed from all eternity with the Father and the Holy Spirit, entered into this world of ours as a tiny baby.

Given the perplexity that all these contradictions evoke, how can we as Christian fruitfully meditate upon them?  How can this meditation make our Advent more spiritually rich?  There are three practices that help us make the most of Advent.  We can remember them with the initials P-S-P, which stand for poverty, silence, and penance.

Silence is hard to come in our day and age.  A lot of people move to the country—even just five or ten miles from a large city—for the sake of more silence.  However, with the nature of mass media today, it doesn’t matter if you live at the top of a mountain:  radio signals, TV signals, wireless Internet and more can be beamed to you (or maybe we should say at you).  To create an atmosphere of silence, you have to go on the offense and unplug, disconnect or simply turn off a lot of devices.

Of course, there’s also another difficulty when it comes to silence.  Sometimes we don’t like silence.  Noise has a way of blocking out, or distracting us from, our own thoughts and concerns, which perhaps we’d rather not face.  Nonetheless, we need to accept silence as a gift.  Silence is a two-fold gift, the first aspect of which is that it’s a gift we give ourselves, so as to hear one’s own true self.  But the importance of silence also goes beyond our selves.

You remember the Old Testament story about Elijah, to whom the Lord God spoke not through fire or an earthquake, but within a tiny whisper.  In the Christian spiritual life, silence is not an end in itself.  Silence is a means, or rather, a medium through which to hear the Word of God.

The Word of God, of course, is a Person:  the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity.  In the prologue to his Gospel account, which we will hear at Christmas morning Mass, St. John proclaims that this divine Word, which was in the beginning, became Flesh and dwelt among us.  He became flesh and blood—one of us—in order to offer that Body and Blood, with His soul and divinity, on the Cross at Calvary, and in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, because you and I are sinners.  That’s a message we sinners need to hear, and we need silence to be able to hear it.

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