Second Sunday of Advent
December 4, 2022 — Year A
Readings: Is 11:1-10 / Ps 72 / Rom 15:4-9 / Mt 3:1-12
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
When big events are approaching, people start to worry about a lot of things and how to prepare for them, not the least of which is what they will wear. Many of us are already engrossed in the preparation for Christmas; a good number have sent out their Christmas cards; and Christmas shopping is already in full swing. Malls are filled with Christmas stuff. Others are engrossed in deciding what gifts to give, while children are busy deciding what they want to get from their parents or from Santa.
Many of us are excited as we look forward to the big day. The trouble, it seems, is that our modern society has commercialized Christmas, so that we have mistaken the icing for the cake. Somebody once made this strange proposal: Christmas should be abolished because it only makes the poor suffer more. The season only dramatizes the sharp contrast between those who can go on shopping sprees and those who have virtually nothing. We should not, however, be too strict about brushing aside the external trappings – the decorations, gifts, food and drinks – if we brush them out, the spirit surrounding Christmas would be lost.
But let us remain aware that there is always the danger of losing the right perspective. Hence, we need to constantly remind ourselves to keep Christ in Christmas.
Another truth is that Christmas is a religious event. We are celebrating the birth of our Savior who came down centuries ago. Think about it: The child whose birth we are all celebrating and rejoicing in came as the least of men. Poor and simple. He would never be able to afford our glittery and incredibly extravagant celebrations. In this case, we overlook, in the flurry of preparations, the internal preparations in our heart. Let us be ready to share some of our blessings this Christmas that would cheer somehow, or somehow alleviate the harsh condition of our less fortunate brothers and sisters.
That is why in today’s gospel it instructs us to prepare in the true spirit — that is, inwardly – by which John the Baptist beautifully announces, “Reform your lives; for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” The Christmas carol Joy to the World puts it beautifully: “Let every heart prepare Him room.”
This is a big event, the coming of God’s Kingdom. Indeed, it is a big event in world history. But John does not worry about his outfit, or what he will eat, or even his popularity with the leaders of the Jews. John does not worry at all. He simply gets ready for the coming of the Lord, and, as God’s messenger, he wants the rest of the people to get ready, too. He wants them to prepare for the very Son of God who will enter human history, not dressed in silken clothes nor sleeping in an air-conditioned or heated room, nor sleeping on a mattress, but dressed in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.
Advent is a time for preparation. It is also a season of conversion and repentance, a time to live out the message that John proclaims: “Reform your lives, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”
The kingdom does not appear out of the blue. It will not come automatically. God will bring about the realization of this via people. This will come only when certain conditions are met: where people are converted to a new style of life; where they are willing to commit to banish injustice, either personal or societal; and ready to stand for one another. In this, the kingdom is at hand. But whether it will materialize depends on each one of us. Our Church reminds us that repentance and conversion will not only happen during Advent. It should be forever, but the question is: “In what way?”
It is by begging pardon for our sins, because sin is like a poison in the body, which it slowly kills. Penance is the way to detoxify our souls. Many of us collect sins and, before we know it, our souls are cluttered, like attics filled with junk. To prepare for God’s coming, we need to do some housecleaning. We must make room for Him by getting rid of sin. Sacramental confession is a great help. We are not only looking for Christ, but we are looking for His coming at the end of time. We are so very thankful for His continual presence in us. But He can only enter a heart that is contrite and pure: a changed heart.
As Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, “Change your hearts. Unless we change our hearts, we are not converted.” The Greek word metanoia means “change of heart.” Metanoia is a biblical term for repentance or “complete change of heart.” It turns one away from sin, to serve the living God. In the Old Testament, the prophets called for a conversion that would turn the people away from idolatry, and from a merely superficial practice of religion to live in fidelity to God’s law and their social responsibilities.
In the gospel of today, John the Baptist, and then later Jesus, preach a radical change of heart, as demanded by the coming of God’s kingdom. That is why the baptism of St. John the Baptist is a baptism for repentance. During apostolic times, in the name of Jesus, the apostles invited people to be converted and baptized, and so begin a new life in the spirit. So today let us reform and repent. Let us turn away from sin and say we are sorry. And we must do it now, for tomorrow may be too late. Now is the acceptable time because the kingdom of God is at hand.