The Second Sunday of Advent

December 10, 2017 / By: Kenneth Snyder

Is 40:1-5, 9-11/2 Pt 3:8-14/Mk 1:1-8

Each year, on the second Sunday of Advent, we are introduced to that iconic, yet enigmatic character, John, who is most commonly known as the Baptizer, but also as the Forerunner of Christ, or even the last of the Prophets. For some, John is an unsettling figure. Perhaps it is his wild appearance and peculiar diet, but more likely it is his harsh rebukes in other gospel accounts (Mt 3:7 ff.; Lk 3:7 ff.) of those who come to hear him with less than noble or sincere motives. But John’s words should not strike fear in our hearts; they should rather fill us with hope and consolation. For John came proclaiming a message of repentance and forgiveness of sins; and while an honest assessment and acknowledgement of our own sinfulness can admittedly be uncomfortable, ultimately it is the promise of God’s mercy that overwhelms us with joy.

The gospel’s opening quotation from the prophet Isaiah reinforces this message of consolation, and it is more fully articulated in the longer rendering of the passage from Isaiah, Chapter 40 in today’s first reading. The prophet spoke these words of comfort to the people of Israel living in exile to inform them that God had not abandoned them, nor would God’s judgment on their past sins be without the possibility of reconciliation. They were to prepare the Lord’s way and to ready themselves to be cared for just as a shepherd gathers the lambs in his arms. Likewise the author of our second reading reminds us that God does not desire that any of us should perish. Instead, God wants us to come to repentance and to live lives of holiness in anticipation of of “the day of God.” The clarion call of John, Isaiah, and 2nd Peter should be the focus of our Advent devotion: to examine our lives carefully, to express sincere repentance for our sins, and to welcome with a full embrace the mercy and forgiveness of God that is accomplished through the coming of Christ into our world and into our lives.

Kenneth D. Snyder, Ph.D.
Academic Dean, The Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity