Second Sunday of Advent
A Homily - Cycle B - 2011-2012
by Fr. Luke Dundon

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First Reading - Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 85:9-10, 11-12, 13-14
Second Reading - 2 Peter 3:8-14
Gospel - Mark 1:1-8

Mark wrote to explain Christ
to the new Gentile converts.

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.  As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
        he will prepare your way.
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
        "Prepare the way of the Lord,
        make straight his paths."

John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.  John was clothed in camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist.  He fed on locusts and wild honey.  And this is what he proclaimed: "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."

Something totally NEW is coming. . . The Gospel, Evangelium, or "Good News," was the proclamation heralding a message of victory for the Emperor of Rome . . . his royal highness had won! The Emperor was seen as chosen by the Roman gods and goddesses, so he was almost akin to a god himself.

But NOW, something else is being proclaimed, THIS is a NEW beginning - - - the GOSPEL, the Evangelium, the GOOD NEWS of Jesus Christ is being proclaimed. Jesus Christ is now the SON OF GOD, no longer the emperor! As they say out west, "’em are fightin’ words!" Something (or Some-ONE) really big is coming, and so we begin Mark’s Gospel this year with a bang, with boldness, with something to say! Thank HEAVENS we have quieted down these past few days to listen . . . still awake?

And what do we hear? Jesus, right? It’s time to hear from this Son of God! But . . . we don’t . . . at least not yet . . . we hear from a man named John. MUCH better, I’m not ready yet - - - not ready? What do you mean, Father? Well . . . you see, I’m not much different from the ancient Romans . . . I’m "living in the world," and this world is suspicious of "fighting words," so I’m suspicious as well as not . . . quite . . . ready. The modern world (and guess who’s part of the modern world?) is similarly suspicious, so we need to leave the distractions and illusions of the city, we need to go to the desert where we can listen to this man named John. And what is this voice crying out? "Prepare the way, make straight his paths!" IMPORTANT news, announced through word, sight, and deed.

First, by word – A mighty one is coming, one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit . . . so prepare the way! Well how? What picture do we see when we go out to the Jordan? A man who is clothed in camel’s hair, a leather belt, eating locusts and wild honey . . . aaaaand, we’re going to listen to THIS guy?! But, in his SIMPLICITY, he sounds SO convincing, without any attachment to fancy food, pleasure, work, even success or popularity - - - so different from the world I’m living in . . . and so I’m intrigued, I’ll watch what he’s doing . . . John is baptizing in the Jordan River, a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

The Jordan River – before, people came to the Temple in the heart of Jerusalem for the forgiveness of sins. Now we see John, miles outside the city walls, standing in the middle of a river, in the DESERT. Kinda weird! But kinda necessary - - - it shows us that CHANGE is needed . . . for the Jews, for the Romans? Sure . . . and us. We enter the desert of Advent, we enter a simpler environment - - - BUT, here, in rugged simplicity and without distractions, we meet a guide who reminds us that we need to TURN from our faults, OUR faults, our GREVIOUS faults, because we have sinned against an infinitely loving God. So, what do we NEED to turn from our faults?

REPENTANCE, a turning of the heart, for the King who is coming is the King of MERCY, and we will find Him if we are ready to seek that mercy, if we HUNGER for it, for this King’s Blood will be poured out to forgive our sins. We all know the healing power of forgiveness from God or from others, but we may not always recognize our own NEED for it - - - SIMPLICITY, cutting down on pleasures, ambitions and distraction, help remind us how FUNDAMENTAL this Forgiveness is for our own health! What a gift Advent is, to simplify and turn back our hearts, as we are reminded how much we YEARN for HIM!

Simplifying really helps re-awaken our deepest and most basic yearnings - - - like food! Once upon a time, I fell quite ill and ended up in a European Hospital for a few days, not being allowed to have any liquid or food by mouth for approximately 48 hours. At 26 years of age, such a prescription bordered on ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ . . . by the end, I WAS STARVING! Pasta withdrawal was setting in . . . Finally, after a couple days and a couple tests, they said I could have some yogurt and some toast and butter . . . (*eh*) . . . well, better than nothing . . . and then I realized how much better it WAS - - - the first bite was into the toast and butter . . . and how GLORIOUS it was to the taste buds! What Good News! Every crumb of golden browned wheat bread, every drop of succulent butter dribbling off the toast, I could taste every ingredient in such a delectable combination . . . before, I never much ate toast . . . after this incident, it became (and still is!) my favorite food. Simplicity helped me appreciate how MUCH I treasured a single piece of toast . . .

Similarly, if we turn back to the Lord in Confession, if we simplify our food or drink in the smallest of ways, if we make more time reading the Gospels, if we offer our assistance at a soup kitchen or the food pantry, then our hearts will turn, repentance will come. We will be reminded how much we hunger for the simplest of things, for the simplest of things are the most powerful, and the most healing . . . WE need healing, we WANT healing, WE hunger for something that this world can’t offer. . . but this New King CAN. . . the Baptist is pointing the way . . we stay close to John, we follow His example, for the King of Kings is getting closer . . . get ready for glad tiding, prepare for a foretaste of JOY, on the Third Sunday of Advent . . . Yep, they’re "’fightin’ words," they’re Words of TRUE power, they are words and will and must change us for the better - - - The beginning of the Gospel, the GOOD NEWS, of Jesus Christ the Son of God. May he find our hearts yearning purely and simply for Him . . . for JOY is right around the corner!

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