December 4, 2022
Second Sunday of Advent
We look around and we see conflict and division–Harsh words, malicious accusations, killings, war, terrorism. We experience much injustice in society. The evildoers seem to have their way, with some even rewarded for their deeds. We deeply wish that things aren’t the way they are now. “There has to be an end to these!” This yearning is our own experience of the longing of advent. Just as the people of Israel cried out, “Maranatha!” (“Come, O Lord!”) as they long for the coming of our Lord, we too long to see an end to our many sufferings.
Today’s readings afford us both a vision of what we are yearning for and the way towards such a vision:
Isaiah’s Vision. Our first reading (Is 11:1-10) is Isaiah’s vision of the era of the Messiah. For Isaiah, the prophet of Advent in the Old Testament, the eschatological era of the Messiah will be characterized by justice for the Anawim (the poor) as the Lord “shall judge the poor with justice and decide aright for the land’s afflicted” (v. 4). Not only that justice will reign, there shall be harmony and peace in this eschatological age as signified by these images: “Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them” (v. 6).
A vision provides hope. The vision is what we yearn to happen now. We long for justice, for peace and harmony. Despite overwhelming obstacles to our efforts we continue to cling to the vision. We continue to hope in the Lord.
This is, then, at the heart of Advent: Our anticipation of the Lord’s coming, the fulfillment of the vision. So when we are down and discouraged, exasperated and feeling useless, there’s one more thing to do: Cry out with total dependence on the Lord, “Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!”
John’s Way of Repentance. Our efforts, all too often, are motivated by egoism. No wonder we fail many times and we don’t progress towards the vision. John the Baptist, in today’s gospel reading (Mt. 3:1-12), has taught us the way—Repentance. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (v. 2). The fulfillment of the vision is now! Repentance, then, must not be delayed. It has to be done now. It is urgent! And repentance must be concrete; it has to “produce good fruits” as evidence (v. 8).
To repent is to turn away from our egoistic self and embrace the ways of the Lord, in St. Paul’s language, “to put on Christ.” When we truly repent, we allow Jesus Christ to reign in our hearts. Then everything in the vision follows—justice, peace, harmony.
When we ignore the Advent requirement of true repentance we continue with our exasperation in the face of the worsening ills of society wondering why Isaiah’s vision remains elusive. We need to listen to John. Repent.
See if you share Isaiah’s vision in expecting for the coming of Jesus.
At this point of time in your life, what does repentance mean to you?