The Second Sunday of Advent
                                                                                    December 10, 2023

                                                                                                                        Fr. Jos Maria de Sousa Alvim Calado Cortes, F.S.C.B.
                                                                                                                                                                           Pastor of the Church of St. Peter
                                                                                                                                                                                North St. Paul, Minnesota

Sunday Reading Meditations

As we celebrate the Second Sunday of Advent, the Liturgy of the Word presents us with the great figure of Saint John the Baptist.  Today, the voice of the forerunner of the Messiah reaches each one of us: "A voice cries out in the desert prepare the way of the LORD!" (Is 40-3).

Today, we are invitee to meditate on the need to prepare ourselves for Jesus' coming.  The first reading says: "Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low" (Is 40:4).

In order to welcome Christ, we need to wait and watch for him.  Without preparation, there is no real encounter.  John the Baptist represents the long history of the expectation of the Messiah by the people of Israel.  Centuries of patient waiting prepared for Jesus' arrival.  Many prophets and kings had waited for him.  In the Gospel according to Luke, Jesus says: "For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it" (Lk 10:24).  We cannot understand who Christ is without understanding that the people of God had been waiting for him for a very long time.  We cannot skip the Old Testament and understand Christ.  Saint John the Baptist was the first prophet, the synthesis of the whole history of Israel.

We do not understand what food is without hunger, as we do not understand what water is without thirst.  Thus, we do not understand Christ without Saint John the Baptist.

John was a very important figure.  Crowds were coming to listen to him preach and to be baptized.  As the Jewish people had been without a prophet for more than 200 years, he rekindled hope in Israel, a new sense of enthusiasm, John's presence recalled the great prophet Elijah.  However, he did not allow himself to become intoxicated by popular acclaim.

John did not preach of himself; he preached of another who was about to come: "One mightier than I is coming after me.  I am not worthy t stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals" (Mk 1:8).

John was the voice and Jesus was he Word.  John was baptizing with water and Jesus would baptize with Spirit.  John was a creature and Jesus the one by whom the world was made.  John was nothing and Christ was everything.  John was the friend of the bridegroom and Jesus was the bridegroom.  John was the servant and Christ was the Master.

What does John teach us?  He teaches us humility.  We are invited to follow his example.  We need to allow Christ to be the center of our lives.  This is the preparation required for Advent.  It is a path of conversion.  John was on the bank of the River Jordan, inviting people to conversion.  In the second reading, Saint peter tells us that God is patient and waiting for us to come to repentance.

I am always amazed when people say that they do not have sins.  When they say that, they forget the most important sin of all: pride.  A person who says he does not have sins is full of pride and has to work on recognizing and accepting this.

What does it mean to put Jesus in the center of our lives?  I found the answer to this question in the First Letter of Saint John: "If anyone says, "I love God," but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen" (1 Jn 4:20).  To put Jesus in the center of our lives means to allow others to be the center and not ourselves.  In the second reading, Saint Peter invites us to conduct ourselves in holiness and devotion (cf. 3Pt 3:12).

Let us pray that the holy season of Advent will be a time for us to convert ourselves more fully to Christ.  Let us learn with Saint John the Baptist to wait for Jesus' coming and live humbly in our daily lives.  May his example enlighten us and his intercession help us to act accordingly.