Tag Archives: 2 Sunday in Advent

9 December 2018: Second Sunday of Advent

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
  Bar 5:1-9
RCL: Mal 3:1-14
  Ps 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6   Phil 1:4-6, 8-11
RCL: Phil 1:3-11
  Lk 3:1-6

Advent preparations: turning minds and hearts, clearing the road

Purple_banner_sm During the Advent season the Lectionary readings present prophecies and exhortations about the Lord’s coming. This week’s readings ask the believing community to once again prepare the way for Jesus’ incarnation.

The first reading is from the prophet Baruch, a scribe and companion of Jeremiah. Baruch lived in the sixth century BC, but scripture scholars assign this work to an unknown author writing in the first or second century BC, hundreds of years after the exiles had returned. Writing as Baruch, the author addresses Jews in the Diaspora (those living outside the Jewish homeland) to give them hope and consolation. The author suggests a parallel between the Babylonian exiles and those living in the Diaspora. The Lectionary editors chose this reading because it echoes part of Isaiah’s preparation prophecy quoted in today’s gospel.

The second reading includes Paul’s greetings and prayers for the ekklesia in Philippi. He greets the Philippians as friends and “partners in the gospel,” and prays that their love may increase in “real knowledge and discernment” so as to be “pure and blameless” at Christ’s coming (parousia). The Lectionary editors chose this reading to emphasize preparing for Jesus’ coming, whether as a historical remembrance at Christmas or at his second coming.

Luke’s gospel reintroduces John the Baptizer, prophet and precursor. John warns the Jewish people to prepare for the messiah’s coming. Next week, we will hear John’s specific instructions; this week, we listen to his call to conversion or metanoia. Today’s gospel places the Baptizer in his historical and religious context.

  • John’s identity. Luke has already introduced John the Baptizer as a prophet in Lk 1. Today’s reading describes the Baptizer’s prophetic call (“the word of God came to John”) using the words and symbols of Hebrew scripture. Luke extends Mark’s version of Isaiah’s quotation by adding “all flesh shall see God’s salvation.” This allows Luke to emphasize the universality of salvation, a theme he announced in Simeon’s prophecy (Lk 2:30-32). For Luke, the Baptizer is Jesus’ precursor (Lk 7:27), a transitional figure inaugurating the time of fulfillment of prophecy and promise.
  • John’s message. John proclaims a conversion-baptism that frees participants from sin (Lk 3:3). All Jews practiced forms of ritual washing, such as before eating and before entering the Temple. John connects his one-time ritual immersion with the requirement of metanoia (change of heart/mind). That is, John’s ritual washing frees a person from sin only if that person changes: turns away (converts) from sin and does good. John’s baptism prepares people spiritually and morally to encounter the coming messiah’s message.

Last week’s readings looked forward to Jesus’ second coming. This week’s readings focus on Jesus’ first coming, in his incarnation. Baruch, Paul, and the gospel describe the believing community’s need to prepare for this coming. What are we changing in our hearts and minds to get ready? Are we surveying our personal valleys for spiritual or moral deficiencies? Are we leveling our interior mountains of pride or exclusion? Are we making our path to discipleship clearer and straighter?

—Terence Sherlock


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10 December 2017: Second Sunday of Advent

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
  Is 40:1-5, 9-11   Ps 85:9-10-11-12, 13-14   2 Pt 3:8-14   Mk 1:1-8

Advent: Preparing the way by turning to the good news

Purple_banner_sm As we continue our Advent waiting and preparation for the Lord’s coming at Christmas, the Lectionary announces good news and reminds RCIA participants and the believing community of our need for conversion to prepare the way.

In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah speaks to the Jews captive in Babylon in the sixth century BC, promising their release and the restoration of Israel. God will lead them through the wilderness back to Judea, as God led Moses and the Israelites through the desert to the promised land. Isaiah tells the returning Jewish exiles to prepare a path through the wilderness for their Lord, and to shout the good news from the mountain: the exiles return and God renews the covenant! In Advent, the Christian believing community similarly prepares the Lord’s way by conversion: turning to God and away from everything else, and tells our good news from the mountain: through the incarnation God comes to be with us.

In the second reading from Peter’s second letter, the author addresses his community’s concerns about Jesus’ delayed return. Some false teachers are claiming that because Jesus hasn’t returned by this time (around 120 AD), he’s never returning. The author points out that divine time and human time aren’t the same. If humans think the parousia is taking too long, it’s because God is giving us a chance to turn back to God before the end-time. The good news is that we have time to live holy and devout lives as we await Jesus’ return.

In the gospel, Mark introduces his story of Jesus. In eight short verses Mark tells the purpose of his writing and introduces Jesus’ prophetic forerunner:

  • Purpose of Mark’s story. Mark titles his story “The beginning of the proclamation (or good news) about Jesus the messiah.” Mark’s first word–“beginning”–is the same word that opens Genesis. Mark may be suggesting his proclamation (or gospel) offers a new beginning or a new creation to everyone.
  • The one who prepares the way. Mark quickly introduces John, who is preaching and baptizing in the wilderness. John, a prophet like Isaiah and Elijah, preaches metanoia. The Greek verb μετανοέω (meh-tah-noh-EH-oh) means “to turn one’s mind/heart away from one thing and towards another.” Many bibles translate metanoia as “repentance,” but that translation is too weak. Metanoia is about conversion, turning to God. True metanoia brings forgiveness, which is the beginning of the kingdom of God.

Today’s readings call RCIA participants and the believing community to hear the good news and to change our hearts and minds. Isaiah announces that God is with us and we must straighten our ways. The second reading tells us that God is giving us the time we need to turn toward holiness and devotion. Mark’s gospel proclaims a new beginning that starts with our metanoia. Today’s three readings describe different ways God enters into human history to be with us–in covenant, through incarnation, and at the end time. God-with-us is good news that is undescribably good and always new. During Advent will we take time to consider how good the good news is? Or will we let the season’s busyness ensure that God’s news never reaches our daily lives? Metanoia is our choice: where will we turn? How will we turn out?

—Terence Sherlock

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4 December 2016: Second Sunday of Advent

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Is 11:1-10 Ps 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17 Rom 15:4-9 Mt 3:1-12


Advent preparations: seeking, hoping, changing direction

Purple_banner_sm As we continue our Advent waiting and preparation for the Lord’s coming at Christmas, the Lectionary reminds RCIA participants and the believing community about promises and their fulfillment, and our need for conversion to prepare the way.

In the first reading, Isaiah foresees a new king from David’s line. God will invest this anointed one (messiah) with God’s own spirit and gifts (v 2): intellect (wisdom and understanding), leadership (counsel and strength), and spirituality (knowledge and awe before God). The messiah will judge everyone justly (v 3-5): the poor and afflicted, the ruthless and the wicked. He will restore peace to God’s kingdom (v 6-9). He will be so great and just that the gentiles will seek out and join his kingdom (v 10).

In the second reading, Paul urges the Roman ekklesia to look to scripture as a source of continuing hope. God’s every act contains within it an expectation for something more. For example, God’s covenant promises a future messiah; Jesus’ incarnation promises a future Second Coming. Scripture gives hope because it tells not only of promises fulfilled, but also of glory to come.

In the gospel, Matthew introduces John the Baptizer in his role as Jesus’ herald. He carefully lays out John’s prophetic pedigree and purpose:

  • John’s place: John preaches in the desert or wilderness on the opposite side of the Jordan river. For first-century Jews, John’s location resonates with hope and new life. During the Exodus, God led the Israelites through the wilderness, across the Jordan river, and into the Promised Land. The prophets promised that God would again bring the Jewish people to the wilderness to rededicate them as God’s people (Hos 2:16). John calls the people to the wilderness, baptizes them in the Jordan, and has them reenter the Promised Land–re-enacting their Exodus story and their return to God.
  • John’s clothes: John wears the same camel-hide robe and leather belt as the prophet Elijah (2 Kgs 1:8). The Jews expected Elijah to return to “prepare the way before God” (Mal 3:1, 23-24) and to restore the tribes of Israel. Like Elijah, John confronts a sinful ruler (Ahab/Herod). Like Elijah, John prepares for a greater prophet (Elisha/Jesus) who will cleanse lepers, raise a dead child, and multiply bread to feed the crowds. In prophetic dress, John’s words and actions signal that Elijah has returned and the day of the Lord is near.
  • John’s message: John preaches metanoia: a change of heart and mind. In Jewish thought, metanoia meant a simultaneous turning away from evil and a turning toward God–a dramatic change in direction. John urgently announces “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” This kingdom isn’t a place; it’s God’s dynamic kingship over God’s people. John announces that God’s promised reign is about to begin.

During our Advent waiting, the readings call RCIA participants and the whole believing community to prepare for Jesus’ coming with hope and joy. Isaiah gives us a glimpse of God’s future peaceable kingdom. Paul tells us to listen to scriptures’ fulfillments and future hope. Matthew traces how John the Baptizer fulfills the prophecies. John reminds us that we prepare the way. Whose kingdom are we seeking? For what are we hoping? From what are we turning away? Toward what–or toward whom–are we traveling?

—Terence Sherlock

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6 December 2015: Second Sunday of Advent

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
 Bar 5:1-9  Ps 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6  Phil 1:4-6, 8-11  Lk 3:1-6


Advent: preparing with hope and joy

As we continue our Advent waiting and preparation for the Lord’s coming at Christmas, the Lectionary calls RCIA participants and the believing community to conversion and to prepare the way.

The first reading is from the book of Baruch. Baruch, a scribe and companion of Jeremiah, lived during the Babylonian exile (597-538 BC). An unknown author writing between 200 and 60 BC composed this book. Today’s reading is from Baruch’s Poem of consolation and hope, which describes the return from Babylon. The Lectionary editors chose this passage because it is full of hope (“take off … mourning and misery,” “God is leading Israel in joy”) and echoes Isaiah’s prophecy quoted in today’s gospel.

The second reading, from Paul’s letter to the Philippi ekklesia, is filled with love and hope. Writing from prison in 54 or 55 AD, Paul prays that the Philippians grow in Christian maturity. He prays that their “love should increase in knowledge (literally ‘precise, correct knowledge’) and perception (literally ‘moral discernment’)” so that they will be “pure and blameless” when Christ returns (“the day of Christ”). The Lectionary editors want us to use Advent to “increase in knowledge and perception” as we prepare for the day of Christ at Christmas.

Luke’s gospel focuses on John the Baptizer and his message: “Prepare the way of the Lord.” This is what John preached:

  • Baptism: To baptize (Greek: βαπτίζω) means “to immerse completely in water” or “to dunk.” John’s Jewish audience understood John’s baptism as a ritual washing (Hebrew: tevilah).
  • Repentance: John preaches not simply repentance, but metanoia (Greek: μετάνοια), which means “a change of mind” or “conversion.” John links this interior conversion with the outward public sign of ritual washing.
  • Forgiveness: Luke uses the Greek word aphesis (ἄφεσις), meaning the action of freeing someone from something that confines. Forgiveness is a continuous, ongoing action.
  • Sins: The Greek word hamartia (ἁμαρτία), here translated as “sin,” is an archery term meaning “to miss the mark.” Hamartia suggests that a failing has “degrees of wrongness,” rather than being simply “a bad action.” Paired with metanoia, hamartia invites us think about what kind of conversion we need to prepare the way of the Lord.

John the Baptizer preaches an inner conversion, or a turning-toward God. The ones who have experienced this conversion mark this event by a public, ritualized immersion that asked God to free them from the guilt and obligations of their past failings. Only when we turn away from hamartia and turn toward God will the obstacles to God’s coming–mountains, ravines, crooked roads, potholes–be cleared away.

During our Advent waiting, the readings urge RCIA participants and the whole believing community to prepare for Jesus’ coming with hope and joy. But we have preparatory work to do. Is metanoia part of our Advent? Are we tearing down our personal mountains and filling up our interior valleys? Have we made straight and smooth the road to our hearts?

–Terence Sherlock

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