2nd Sunday of Advent 2023

Isaiah 40: 1-5, 9-11     2 Peter 3:8-14     Mark 1:1-1-8    

Advent W2Today, the 2nd Sunday of Advent, could be called ‘John the Baptist’ Sunday. John the Baptist is important for us because he points the way to Jesus, the Messiah, the Saviour.  It is because of his mission that today we commemorate our Salvation in Christ. What do we mean by Salvation?  The story is told of a teacher in class asking ‘what is the meaning of Salvation?  A young boy raises his hand; ‘I think I know’, he says.  ‘In the morning when my mother is in a hurry getting us all ready for school, she always says that I am her salvation – because I put things back where they belong!’

That is what the Messiah does – he is the one who puts things back where they belong.  Our Advent journey is one where we Wait for that Messiah and watch for the signs of his presence and action in our lives and in our world. This is the Year of Mark and the Gospel readings of our Sunday liturgies are mainly taken from Mark’s Gospel.  Mark, unlike the other evangelists, who often preach of Judgement, gives repentance a ‘Happy face’.  And the Gospel today links up with the great message of consolation in the 1st Reading from Isaiah; ‘Console, my people … Jerusalem’s time of service is ended … Her sin is atoned for … Zion, here is your God.’  God is putting all things back where they belong! That is the Good News which Mark sees John the Baptist preparing for – the coming of God. 

The message of the Baptist is twofold: it concerns the acknowledgement by people of their sins and it offers the hope that someone is coming – someone powerful, someone who will release the life-giving waters of God’s Spirit upon the earth. It is significant too that the story of the coming of the Saviour begins in the wilderness, where life can hardly survive, where predators prowl and dangers are all about At the time of John the Baptist Rome was the imperial capital and Jerusalem was the religious centre of the world.  But the word came to John in the ‘wilderness’ and John chose to preach that word out of the wilderness.  This was a time of great political wilderness for the Jews and many generations had passed without a prophet of hope and promise. It is out of wilderness that we are called to recognise the Salvation that is ours.  All of us have experienced our own wildernesses; barren times of failure and frustration, low times when our energy has evaporated, blind times when we could not see or understand.  And, so often we have come to know that the wilderness was necessary so that we could come to recognise the light coming out of the darkness or realise our need for a greater Light in our lives. In our own time the Wilderness has been so evident in our Church and we have seen that by experiencing that wilderness the Church has seen a great light and in that light has begun the repentance that will heal and put things back in their right place.

Let us acknowledge the wilderness, the darkness, the sin so that we be encouraged to be alert to the Light that is coming.  Let us look out for the signs: the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, prisoners are set free and the poor have the Good News preached to them.  We are these people, deaf, blind, lame, in prison and poor and if we open ourselves to receive the light, the Light will be ours.