Greetings this Second Sunday of Advent
"The Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand!" This is John the Baptist's proclamation in today's Gospel (cf. 3:1-12) The Entrance Antiphon for this Sunday reads: Opeople 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 or your heart.
This King, this Lord, whom John the Baptist prepares the way for is the great and glorious king prophesied in the First Reading today. "The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him...not by appearance shall he judge... he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for land's afflicted." (cf. Isaiah 11:1-10)
The Responsorial Psalm too proclaims the glory of this new King who is to come. "he shall govern your people with justice and your afflicted ones with judgment...Justice shall flower in his days, and profound peace...He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor. In him shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed..." (cf. Psalm 72)
This King who is to come is the son of David - a shoot from the root of Jesse, David's father. Imagine a great and majestic tree that has been cut down. When one sees the stump, there is a sense of lifelessness and loss. Yet from that stump a shoot, or blossom, can sprout. A sign that all is not lost, the tree can come back.
Isaiah goes on to give this near "fairytale" vision of a future wherein wolf and lamb live in peace, leopard and young goat are friends, the bear and the cow are neighbors. Meaning that those who were once natural enemies shall be at peace. That is the hope that this new King brings.
Paul says, in our Second reading, that Christ came "to show God's truthfulness, to confirm the promises to the patriarchs." (cf. Romans 15:4-9)
To prepare for this Kingdom, to be sure that we are not on the side of oppressors and the wicked, John the Baptist calls the Pharisees and the people to repentance. This message is for us too. John appeared wearing camel hair, eating locusts and wild honey, a sign of penance and repentance. He lived what he preached.
His message is clear, "REPENT." No niceties, no softening of the blow, no sensitivity to 'where I'm at', just - Repent. John had no time for excuses or precious sensibilities. He had come to warn. 'Get off the tracks - the train is coming. Spare me the details of your life's story, we all have them, just get off the track!"
We are not accustomed to such uncompromising directness. No wonder John made so many enemies and no wonder he was soon silenced.
John's call to repentance is a warning to 'make straight' the path into the Kingdom, and to avoid the axe wielded by the one who is coming and the fire awaiting that which he cuts down. The Advent choices are clear: repentance and the peace and joy of the Kingdom, or the axe and the fire.
May we, everyday, choose repentance and the path to the Kingdom. God bless you all,
Father Robert Letona