Preparation Through Repentance And Righteousness

Second Sunday Of Advent, Year B.
Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11 – 2Peter 3:8-14 – Mark 1:1-8.

Dear Friends, we have set out on the 2nd week of Advent. The Lord is near. Are we ready for Him? Throughout the season of Advent, we reflect upon the preparations we need to make in order to receive the Lord Jesus Christ both at Christmas, at the time of our death, and at the end of time. Last Sunday, the readings prompted us to reflect upon prayer and good works as ways of preparing for the Lord. Today the readings prompt us to reflect upon our preparations involving both repentance and righteousness as we ready ourselves to meet Him.

The three readings prescribed for this Sunday speak of our need to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord.

Isaiah called God’s people to make their lives better. The call is for all distortion and brokenness in their lives to be remedied, the ruggedness of sin and bad judgement to be eliminated, and the spiritual mountains and precipices endangering their souls to be flattened out, specifically in order to make a pathway for God to come to them.

Centuries later, from the silence and peace of the wilderness, St. John the Baptist preached the same gospel to God’s people – the gospel of repentance, of metanoia, of making a complete change of heart, mind, body and lifestyle in turning back to God. The gospel was a magnet for people trapped in their sins; they were desperate to turn their lives around as they waited for the Messiah.

In the 2nd reading, St. Peter reminds us of the uncertainty of when the Day of the Lord will actually arrive, but he also tells us what needs to be done in the meantime. He writes, ‘while you are waiting, do your best to live lives without spot or stain (in other words, do your best to live righteous and holy lives) so that He will find you at peace’. When we follow God, there is peace. When we do not, there isn’t. Instead of peace, there is dislocation and insecurity. You only have to look at the media reports to know how true this is.

These readings tell us that if our lives are not currently what they should be, if we have gone off track, then rather than continuing to muddle along in our broken world, putting our illusory truth ahead of God’s unchanging truth, we should do something about getting them back on track! In other words, if we have strayed from the basics of the Faith, then we ought to return to them while there is still time. If we have lost sight of the priorities of life, we should make an about-turn and go back to where we can see them. If we have made the mistake of prioritising our work over our family life, then we ought to correct the balance as a matter of urgency. If we have prioritised the achievement of earthly success over the development and sustenance of our personal relationship with God, then it is essential that we amend that pronto. We should do our utmost to assume the internal dispositions of purity and sanctity during our time of waiting for the Lord.

What should we do whenever we find that we are guilty of not living out our lives in ways that are pleasing to God? What should we do whenever we have to admit that Jesus is not genuinely occupying first place in our lives? What should we do whenever we realise that we are not adequately prepared for the coming of Jesus? What areas within ourselves have we cordoned off to prevent God from entering into our innermost being? What is it in our lives that need a complete turnaround before God can come close to us?

Well, the answer to all these questions is that we should do what St. John the Baptist advised God’s people in his time to do. We should do penance, repent and reform our lives. We should seek God’s forgiveness for our sins. Deliberately and purposefully, we should turn over a new leaf and begin afresh. This is the purpose of Advent. Advent is a time for making an inventory of our lives so far, and for making whatever changes are necessary to ready us for the coming of the Lord.

The comforting message of Isaiah (40:1ff) is that God is a righteous Judge. He gets things right, and we get things wrong. Heaven is where righteousness dwells. If you need Confession, seek God’s face and be reconciled with Him. Our priests are always available to administer the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If there is something you need to improve on in the practice of righteousness, then now is the time to work at it. The Lord is near… ‘Here is your God!’ (Is 40:9).

Finally, the voice of John the Baptist resounds across the millennia, reminding us that we have the important task of announcing Christ to others. The way we live out everyday life is itself a message, telling everyone through our emulation of Christ in acts of kindness, honesty and faithfulness that Christ is right here with His people in the present moment. We may be the only book about Christ which someone will ever read. Let them read through us the gospel of God’s love in the Person of His only-begotten Son (Jn 3:16), sent to be born among us at Christmas and who awaits us in eternity. May God bless you as you continue preparing for Christmas. Amen.