Home » Gospel Encouragement – Sunday 5th December 2021 – 2nd Sunday of Advent

Gospel Encouragement – Sunday 5th December 2021 – 2nd Sunday of Advent

Dear sisters and brothers,

This weekends readings, as we celebrate the second Sunday of Advent, are both, as you’d expect in this season, a call to preparation and a message of hope.  Preparation for the coming of Christ and hope that his coming will liberate us.

I found our first reading, from the prophet Baruch, particularly helpful.  It gives us a context for what we are anticipating.  Baruch is telling the people of Israel, who have been exiled from their homeland for 70 years, that they will be returning home very soon.  Because of this, the reading has a deep joy running throughout, even though the homecoming hasn’t happened as yet.  That promise resonates with our Advent message of hope, but it’s what led them into exile that is helpful for us as we think about the need to prepare.

From the time that Moses led the people of Israel to within sight of the promised land, and Joshua helped them to conquer the land, they’ve been swinging between trusting in God and going their own way, and over the centuries it’s going their own way that has got the upper hand.  In reality, as we can all do, they’ve made other things into gods in their lives; the sin of idolatry.  They’ve literally followed the false gods of other nations; they’ve put themselves at the centre of their worlds and made their selfishness into a god, both personally and as a nation; they’ve made having a king into a god, as they sought to have a war leader, and so shown that war has become a god; they’ve listened to the voices of men rather than the voice of God.  Bit by bit they have distanced themselves from God and the consequence of that is that they’re taken into exile.  God had told them how to handle the difficult international political situation, but they didn’t listen to him, and so those other nations overran them and led them into slavery…just like when they’d been in Egypt all those centuries before.

As I say, this situation, which they could have avoided, is a reminder to us of how we need to listen more to God, and less to the false gods, the idols that we can build up in our own lives.  What might the idols of the modern day be?  Well, as for the people of Israel, the same is true for us.  The first idol that we choose to follow is ourselves, our selfishness, wanting our own way, thinking that the only correct view of the world, of life, of faith is that which we have.  We very quickly forget to look at the world through God’s eyes.  We may well intend to, but all too quickly we can forget.

All other idols follow on from this.  Our politics can become a god, our national pride can become a god, our desire for the good things of life can become a god, and our families become a god if we place them over the one true God in their importance in our life.  Even a TV programme can become a god.  I remember being at Mass in another parish one Saturday evening when someone was taken ill.  They called an ambulance which, of necessity, blocked a few cars in.  The owner of one of the cars came out of Mass and was really very angry as she argued that the ambulance needed to move to let her out as she needed to get home to watch ‘Strictly Come Dancing’.  I don’t know if it was the TV programme or a level of selfishness that was her god there, but things were definitely out of balance.  I’m sure she was sorry for her reaction afterwards, but often our initial responses reveal our hearts.  Similarly, I know that for myself, I am virtually always worried about what other people think; these, and other fears, can take the central place in my life that should be reserved for God.

There’s no condemnation in any of this.  We’re all human; we all get things wrong.  I spend my life regretting the selfish things that I’ve done!  The question, is how are we growing in self-awareness and in what ways are we trying to put things right?  How are we endeavouring to grow in a disciple’s discipline, to put the Lord’s worldview before our own.

In today’s Gospel we are told that St John the Baptist “went through the whole Jordan district proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”.  This is the preparation to which we are called in this Advent season.  To repent – which literally means to ‘turn around’ – calls us to turn around and follow God’s ways rather than keep going in our own direction.  As was the case for the people of Israel, to keep going our own way takes us deeper and deeper into exile from God rather than into his loving arms.

And how do we do this?  We’re given a strong hint in our second reading where we hear: “my prayer is that your love for each other may increase more and more and never stop improving your knowledge and deepening your perception so that you can always recognise what is best”.  This reminds us of Jesus’ ‘great commandment’ to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul and all our strength, and to love our neighbour as ourselves.  These two expressions of love are two sides of the same coin, and the ultimate discipline to which we are called.  And it’s living in this love, sharing this love, that gives us the ultimate in hope: that we abide in the love that is God himself.

So, in preparation and hope let us, in our spirits, in our prayer, in our actions, choose to turn around and seek God’s ways for us, and to walk in them.  Let’s say sorry for the times that we have failed to do so and choose to follow him afresh.  And as we choose to love him in this way, let’s pray that we can grow in love for one another more and more, and know the hope that only love can bring; the hope that we bring to others as they receive from us and the hope that we receive as we recognise that such love is what we were made for.  The love that is God.

“For God loved the world so much

that he gave his only Son,

so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost

but may have eternal life.” (John 3: 16)

 

With every blessing,

Simon (and Deacon Liam)