Homily on the Second Sunday of Advent
Repentance for the Forgiveness of Sins (Lk 3:3)
As you recall from last week, the purpose of this season is reflection on and preparation for the two “comings” of Christ: His coming as a humble Infant at Christmas, and the anticipation of His second coming at the end of time. The Holy Scriptures on the 2nd Sunday of Advent remind us that repentance is our preparation.
The Gospel from Luke shows us how personal and detailed is God’s love for humanity as He prepared the way for Christ’s coming among us with the precise time, place, and precursor, John the Baptist. John the Baptist announced the arrival of our Savior. From the Baptist’s preaching, we learn how to celebrate to the fullest this first “coming” on Christmas and how to prepare for the second coming. The center of his message is repentance: “He went throughout [the] whole region of the Jordan proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Lk 3:3). Let us ponder on the word repentance.
Repentance (metanoia in Greek) has the meaning of looking at things upside down. (One a side note, I will never forget in 2018 when we were finalizing our plans for the new church at St. John Paul II Parish in Cedar Springs, the President of AMDJ Architects attended Sunday Mass on the 2nd Sunday of Advent and listened to my homily well. During the week, when he met with the parish representatives to finalize all the details, he flipped the entire plan to remind us that God’s plan is not necessary our plan. That moment confirmed that the parish hired the right architectural firm). To repent, as the John the Baptist calls for, is a change of heart and conduct, a turning of one’s life from rebellion to obedience towards God. To repent means the effective rule of God over His people.
The Gospel further described metanoia: “Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth” (Lk 3:5). These words were taken directly from the prophet Isaiah, and the Book of Baruch, the First Reading, echoed similar themes. In its original setting, these words are part of Isaiah’s call story. It happened during the Babylonian exile (587BC-537BC). God called Isaiah to comfort the exiles and to assure them that God was accomplishing something wonderful and new through their suffering; and God would restore them to the promised land. The people, however, must prepare their hearts for God. Turning their hearts to God was like filling the valley and lowing the hill. The valley and hill represent the sinful habits, the life of rebellion that people were accustomed to. True preparation for “all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Lk 3:6) must include this metanoia.
In this sense, the Second Reading, a letter of St. Paul to the Philippians, speaks directly to all of us during Advent: “This is my prayer,” said the Apostle “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, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God”(Phil 3:9-10). St. Paul’s prayer was for his flock to have the grace to discern what is of value. The long and lasting value is what orients us to eternal life.
Turn away from any unhealthy habits or sins that may have crept into our lives and lift our hearts and minds to Christ, the Light of the world.
Scriptural Readings: Reading I BAR 5:1-9; Responsorial Psalm PS 126: 1-6; Reading II PHIL 1: 4-6, 8-11; Alleluia LK 3:4,6; Gospel LK 3: 1-6