Second Sunday of Advent
December 9, 2018 Cycle C
by Rev. Jose Maria Cortes, F.S.C.E., Chaplain,
Saint John Paul II National Shrine,
 Washington, D.C.

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In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

As we celebrate the Second Sunday of Advent, we are invited to wait and watch. We are called to intensify our longing for Jesus’ coming. He came once and will come back again at the end time. In the present time, Jesus comes to those who are waiting for him! To our emptiness he brings fullness and completion (Cf. Col: 2:9-10). The Blessed John Henry Newman wrote: “This is the very definition of a Christian—one who looks for Christ […] We must not only have faith in him, but must watch for him; not only love him, but must long for him; not only obey him, but must look out, look up earnestly for our reward, which is himself.”

Therefore, Advent is the season to rise up and watch the horizon in expectation of the sunrise of our salvation. We are like watchful sentinels looking out and waiting for the dawn, for the light to come to us.

We tend to believe that only action changes things. However, that is not entirely true. Expectation already brings about change. It is enough to think about how we came into this world. The nine months that preceded our birth were already a great transformation. Just ask your mom!

As soon as we begin longing for Jesus’ arrival, our perception of reality changes. Everything becomes more solemn and sacred. What is small and ordinary becomes great and extraordinary. All things are united by a secret harmony. The presence of the mystery fills the universe, moving all things silently toward their fulfillment.

Let us welcome Saint Paul’s invitation. To the Philippians, he wrote: “[…] And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ” (Phil 1:9-11). As we wait and watch for the coming of Our Lord, we grow in our capacity to discern God’s will. A new understanding of people and things is given to us. We begin to look at reality as God does.

In today’s first reading, the prophet Baruch tells us about God’s saving action upon Israel. “Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever […] For God will show all the earth your splendor […] Up, Jerusalem! Stand upon the heights; look to the east […]” (Bar 5:1,3-5). They passed from mourning and misery to the splendor of God’s glory. In the return from exile, Israel experienced what today’s psalm describes: “Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing” (Ps 126:5).  Now there is justice, peace and hope in Jerusalem. And the prophet says that much more will come: “[…] for God is leading Israel in joy by the light of his glory, with his mercy and justice for company” (Bar 5:9).

Today’s Gospel tells us about the beginning of Saint John the Baptist’s mission. The Evangelist Luke gives us the historical coordinates that identify the moment when the Holy Spirit impelled John to invite everyone to prepare the coming of the Lord: “[…] the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert. John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Lk 3:3).

Every year, Advent liturgy gives us the image of the precursor of Jesus, the voice of one crying in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord” (Lk 3: 4).

John the Baptist has been entrusted with a role of singular importance in the design of salvation. Not by chance does the Church place him at the beginning of the Litany of the Saints, immediately after the angels. He is the only saint in the liturgical calendar whose birth and martyrdom are both celebrated. The Sunday Gospel speaks of him twice during the Advent season. His mission did not end with his death. Indeed, the Baptist continues to act on our behalf in glory. With his prophetic strength, he invites us to worship the true and only God.

Let us pray for Saint John the Baptist, with his great witness and strong intercession, to help us wait and watch for the Lord. May our lives be transformed as we look for Christ.  Amen.

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