Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Scripture Reflection: 2nd Sunday of Advent (December 10, 2006)

Readings for today: Baruch 5:1-9, Psalm 126:1-6, Philippians 1:4-6,8-11, Luke 3:1-6.

As we grow in the love and wisdom of God, mountains will be lowered and valleys will be raised through us, to His glory. We will prepare the way of the Lord for all flesh to see His saving power.

First Reading: Baruch, a disciple of Jeremiah, writes of a time of change coming to Jerusalem. No longer shall Jerusalem be robed in mourning and misery, but with the glory of God (5:1). Just as last week we heard from Jeremiah that Jerusalem shall be called "The LORD our justice" (Jeremiah 33:16), this week we hear from Baruch that Jerusalem shall be called "The peace of justice" and "the glory of God's worship" (5:4). The scattered children of Jerusalem shall be drawn back, using imagery found in Isaiah 40: mountains being made low, valleys being filled, and the glory of God returning with mercy and justice (5:6-9).

Second Reading: Here Paul writes words of encouragement to brethren in Philippi. Paul prays joyfully for them, confident that what was started in them when they first heard the gospel will continue to grow to completion until the return of Christ (1:4-6). His prayer for them is that they grow in love and wisdom so as to be able to continue discerning what is good, that they may be blameless before Christ and filled with the fruits of righteousness for the glory of God (1:9-11). Paul is aware that Christians can become stagnant in their faith and lose sight of the righteousness found in Christ, and that is why he prays for them. They have heard the gospel and believe it, but they must continue to grow in love and continue to discern what has value. What has been started in them by the Holy Spirit must continue to develop to completion.

Gospel: After the infancy narrative, Luke writes about the ministry of John the Baptist, son of Zechariah. This brief gospel passage relates John's work in the desert (3:3-6) to what was foretold by Isaiah: the voice in the wilderness crying out, "ready the way of the Lord!" Advent, like Lent, is a time of repentence. We are preparing the way of the Lord in our own lives, with the help of God. The baptism of water by John was a precursor to the baptism of the Holy Spirit by Christ; so too is Advent a precursor to the life of Christ. There are to be no obstacles between the glory of God and those to whom it is coming: mountains are razed, valleys are raised. We, then, should work to remove the obstacles in our own lives, and the lives of others, so that the gospel of the Lord can be brought to the world in living faith and action:
  • Joseph and Mary could not find a room in Bethlehem, so the Christ was born in a lowly estate, a manger. Projects like Habitat for Humanity work to provide homes for those without.
  • The magi came bearing gifts to the Holy Family and received nothing in return, save the privilege to stand in the presence of God. Christmas gift-giving between friends and family is one thing, but church activities like "Giving Trees" and programs like Toys for Tots are examples of Christ's wisdom that it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). Give without expectation of reward (Matthew 10:8).
  • When the crowds asked John what they should do as evidence of their repentence, he told them that "Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise." (Luke 3:11) Donate your time to a soup kitchen. Donate to food drives and clothing drives.
In performing these acts of love, outward signs of our penitence before God, we are preparing the way of the Lord, we are a voice crying in the wilderness of our modern busy world, we are flattening mountains and filling valleys, all by the grace of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

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