December 9, 2018
2nd Sunday of Advent – C
In the past ten years there has been an oil boom in western and northwestern North Dakota. This oil boom led to heavy truck traffic on many roads and highways, and it became necessary to rebuild roads and highways in areas such as Watford City, Alexander, Williston, New Town, and even north of Dickinson. This process of rebuilding roads makes it possible for the traffic to move more smoothly and for the oil and natural gas production to go forward. Two of our readings today talk about rebuilding roads and surrounding areas. The first reading is from the Book of Baruch, which is a rather obscure book that is found in Catholic Bibles, but not in Protestant or Jewish ones. Baruch was a secretary to the prophet Jeremiah and thus lived around 600 BC, but this book of the Bible was probably written quite a bit later. Both the passage from the Book of Baruch and from the Book of Isaiah that is quoted in the Gospel reading seem to refer to the same historical event, that is, to the return of Jewish exiles in Babylon to Jerusalem in 538 BC. The conquest of Babylon by the Persian army led by Cyrus the Great made this return possible, as Cyrus was more tolerant of the Jewish religion that Babylon was, and Cyrus even gave financial help to make the return possible. Thus, the references to rebuilding roads is somewhat metaphorical. God made the return possible through the help of human agents.
John the Baptist plays an important role in the Gospel for this Sunday and next Sunday and in the Advent season. We are told today that the word of God came to John in the desert. He went about in the region of the Jordan proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Repentance in the Hebrew language tends to indicate a change of direction, especially in one’s personal life. Repentance involves at least two different things: first of all, a reform of our personal life and a turning away from sin. Secondly, repentance involves a change of attitude.
We need to realize what God is doing in our life and in the world around us.
Repentance does call for a turning away from sin and a commitment to obeying God’s will. We need to follow the commandments of God to the best of our ability. We need to spiritually level hills and fill in valleys, to remove any obstacles that may prevent us from doing what is morally right. The Advent season calls us to spend more time in prayer and reflection and to study our faith in a deeper way. Advent is a good time to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation or confession. For some of us, it may be necessary to return to a more faithful practice of our faith. Some Catholics return to the Church at Christmas time.
Repentance also calls us to a change of attitude. John the Baptist seemed to realize that God was about to do something important for the Jewish people and for all people. In particular, John was convinced that a special person was coming who would be “an anointed one” or Messiah. John did not seem to know who this person would be, but he believed that this person would be a special agent of God to bring about the restoration of the people. We have the good fortune of knowing who that person is. Jesus Christ is the promised Savior and Messiah who would come to save the Jewish people and the whole human race, including us. The Advent season is meant to prepare us to celebrate Christmas with the right attitude. Jesus makes it possible for us to be saved from our sins and to experience the grace of God in a special way. We are called to have the right focus and the right perspective on life. There is more to Christmas than Christmas presents and Christmas cards and family gatherings. We need to welcome Christ our Savior more fully into our lives.
So, today we give thanks once again that Jesus Christ came to be our Savior and was born over 2000 years ago. We give thanks that he is in our midst today and that he has prepared a place in heaven for us. We pray that this Advent season will help us to appreciate more fully what God has done for us and that we will follow Christ more closely in our daily life.