The Advent season gives us some wonderful scripture readings and this weekend’s seem particularly suited to the time in which we live.
Comfort, give comfort to my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her
that her service is at an end,
her guilt is expiated;
indeed, she has received from the hand of the LORD
double for all her sins.
Isaiah’s prophecy in the first reading may ring true or false depending on what our experience of 2020 has been, but when we hear it as part of the promise that the Lord would redeem Israel and in light of the reality of Jesus Christ’s presence and action in the world, the truth of it rings clear.
Do you ever succumb to the temptation (as I do) to put off necessary work and growth because of a complacent reliance on God’s mercy and patience? Today’s second reading can help us properly realign. The first part is an encouragement to trust God and to be patient as he is patient: “Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard ‘delay,’ but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
The next sentence deals decisively with the complacency I mentioned: “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out.” So, my friends, what we do and what we say matter: “Since everything is to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be?” “…eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.”
The mighty Advent figure John the Baptist we encounter in the gospel (this, year, Mark’s) proclaims a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
John has a healthy understanding of his own place in the scheme of things and so should we. He is content to be a creature, not the Creator; a messenger, not the Message; a humble servant, not the Master.