SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT: MARK 1: 1-8
Today, we begin the second Sunday of Advent. Advent is a time for anticipation, hope, and preparing for the coming of Christ. Advent is a time to listen to the deepest longings of our hearts and respond to them. Advent is a time to renew our divine longing. It is family prayer time around the advent wreath. It is a candle waiting for a flame, a manger waiting for the baby Jesus. It is a heart waiting for true love and forgiveness, the world waiting for its Savior.
In the first reading, the Prophet Isaiah proclaimed: “Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God.” We might wonder how can we find comfort during this very challenging time? We are currently living in uncertain times with the outbreak of COVID-19. During times like this, our faith can be challenged, and it can be hard to see where God fits in with this ‘new normal’. We are struggling with separations, many are enduring psychological and spiritual darkness, loss of close contact with children and grandchildren, zoom family gatherings, isolation, and depression, loss of dear once and so on… but in one way we can see that this pandemic has been a strange blessing.
In the gospel reading, we heard John the Baptist calling people to repentance, to wash away their sins, and to prepare the way for the Lord. John the Baptist proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me.” John the Baptist came to point Jesus out to others. He witnessed Jesus through his own life by practicing humility, humbleness, and repentance of sins. John Said, “He must increase and I must decrease.” By saying this he shows us the real meaning of the ‘simplicity’ of life.
Let me share with you a small story: One day a rich father took his son on a trip to a village and the father wanted to show his son how the poor people live. They spent time on the farm of a poor family. On the way back home, the father asked his son, “Did you see how poor they are? What did you learn from them?” The son replied, “We have one dog, they have four dogs. We have a swimming pool, they have a river. We have electric lights, they have stars. We buy food from the supermarket, they grow food on their farm. We have walls to protect us, they have friends. We have television, they spend time with family and friends. We have encyclopedias, they have the Bible.”
Then the son added: “Thank you father for showing me how poor we are……!” This small story gives us the moral message: It is not about money or expensive clothes, expensive cars or a big house that makes us our lives rich and happier but simplicity, love, compassion, family, and friends; these are the things that give us real happiness and peace!
Moreover, while we are waiting to receive the Baby Jesus during this Advent journey, we too need to do some work. The prophet Isaiah cries out and tells us to level the mountains, fill in the valleys, and straighten the roads. Prepare! However, I think the prophet Isaiah was talking about more than moving dirt; he was talking about each of us. There is work we need to do before our salvation arrives- before we see how God is with us. We are challenged to redraw the maps of our lives. What are the mountains? What are the barriers keeping others out? Maybe these are the rocky hills of ambition, the flat walls of anger, or the slippery hills of envy. What are the winding and crooked roads that we follow? What are the mountains of pride and ego that we have to level?
Let us try: If we have been holding grudges or hatred, or failing to be reconciled with others, now is the time for us to clear away all the garbage. Let us try: If we have been pushing God off to the side of our road, now is the time for us to get our priorities straight! These are the ways we can prepare the way for Jesus in our hearts and homes!