Homily for the Second Sunday of Advent, Year B 2020
Tiempo de lectura aprox: 2 minutos, 46 segundos
John the Baptist’s Preparation for the Coming of Christ
It is December; that time of the year when we all get very busy in one way or another. Christmas parties and luncheons are beginning to happen. Parents are busy trying to figure out what to place on the dinner table on Christmas day. Children are busy daydreaming of their Christmas gifts. Shops are busy stocking their shelves. The Transportation Industry is busy working out the safest way to transport people in compliance with Covid-19 restrictions. Hospitals are busy organising Christmas shifts for staff. Churches are busy working out Mass times and venues.
Amidst this busyness, there is the likelihood of forgetting Christ, the reason for the season. We can become easily distracted by the worldliness that seems to be the order of the day during this time, and the madness, the rush that comes with it, that we literally lose sight of the Christmas story. Kevin Vost describes this shift of focus from Christ to our concerns and self-preoccupation as the cause of graver problems: apathy, loneliness, and emptiness. Pope Benedict XVI puts it this way, when Christ is absent in our endeavours, suffering is inevitable.
Today’s Gospel reading from Mark 1:1-8 offers us three ways John the Baptist prepared for the First Coming of Christ. Firstly, Mark said John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Mark was speaking to an audience that remembered the story of Exodus, when God liberated the people of Israel from the slavery of Egypt and journeyed with them through the wilderness to the Promised Land. In the Promised Land the Israelites sinned, they were exiled, they lost their Land, their Temple, and they cried to God. God heard their cry. And He promised them the Messiah.
Mark deliberately set the appearance of John the Baptist in the wilderness to tell his audience that it was time for the coming of the Messiah. He described who this Messiah is by quoting John the Baptist – ‘Someone is following me, someone who is more powerful than I am.’ According to Mary Healy, the description more powerful than I am, “mightier than I”, or “the Mighty One” all refer to God. Thus John was saying the One who is coming after him is God. Also, John made this point to emphasise that he and his followers were creatures of God. Why? It is only when they let God be God that they will experience the effect of His coming.
So the first way John the Baptist prepared for the First Coming of Christ was to acknowledge he himself was not God. He was only a creature of God. This is humility, the ground for the possibility of faith in God. John is calling us to have faith, to respond to the in-breaking of God’s Kingdom happening right now amid our busyness. Faith is the light that helps us to see and to sense God’s presence in our circumstances. It was this light of faith that helped John to realise he was not fit even to kneel and undo the strap of Jesus’ sandals. In other words, he was a sinner.
John is telling us something more. It is not just about how sinful he was, or we are. John is saying he had encountered the Messiah. When Isaiah had a vision of the Lord in chapter 6:5 of his book, he said, ‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips…’ John’s words are like Isaiah’s. They are words of those who have had an encounter with God. And such encounters let a person see himself as he is. John saw himself as a sinner and a man of the in-between time like us. A man who had seen the Messiah and was waiting for His coming.
But John did not wait in idleness. He went into the wilderness where his sinfulness wrestled with God’s faithfulness. Where the sun (the light of Christ) and the heat (the love of God) exposed and dispelled his darkness, which was the darkness of the world. Here John is telling us that the second way to prepare for the Lord’s coming is to go to the wilderness. It is in our own wildernesses, that space where the truth of God challenges our opinions, where the Word of God calls us to account for our action that we will experience the transformation John had. In our wildernesses we will find the courage to repent of our ways and the hope of forgiveness.
Finally, John’s third preparation was to tell the story of what had happened, his baptism with water symbolises the first Exodus – God’s liberation of His people from their slavery in Egypt, and what will happen – the Messiah will baptise you (us) with the Holy Spirit. He will bring about the working of God’s Spirit in the world, turning our hearts completely to God and allowing us to experience His blessings as we await His Second Coming. This Spirit will wean us off idolatry, animate the world, open new frontiers, and empower us to overcome injustice with God’s justice, hatred with love, and thus bring about a second Exodus from sin and shame.
Fr Francis Afu