4 December 2016 – 2nd Sunday of Advent
Dear Oxygen readers,
We are now in the second week of Advent. As we are fast approaching the Christmas season, we would like to invite readers to consider a one-off contribution for Christmas Day.
- Vigil Mass for Christmas
- Midnight Mass – Christmas
- Mass at Dawn – Christmas
- Mass in the Day – Christmas
A shoot springs from the stock of Jesse,
a scion thrusts from his roots:
on him the spirit of the Lord rests,
a spirit of wisdom and insight,
a spirit of counsel and power,
a spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
(The fear of the Lord is his breath.)
He does not judge by appearances,
he gives no verdict on hearsay,
but judges the wretched with integrity,
and with equity gives a verdict for the poor of the land.
His word is a rod that strikes the ruthless,
his sentences bring death to the wicked.
Integrity is the loincloth round his waist,
faithfulness the belt about his hips.
The wolf lives with the lamb,
the panther lies down with the kid,
calf and lion feed together,
with a little boy to lead them.
The cow and the bear make friends,
their young lie down together.
The lion eats straw like the ox.
The infant plays over the cobra’s hole;
into the viper’s lair
the young child puts his hand.
They do no hurt, no harm,
on all my holy mountain,
for the country is filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters swell the sea.
That day, the root of Jesse
shall stand as a signal to the peoples.
It will be sought out by the nations
and its home will be glorious.
Everything that was written long ago in the scriptures was meant to teach us something about hope from the examples scripture gives of how people who did not give up were helped by God. And may he who helps us when we refuse to give up, help you all to be tolerant with each other, following the example of Christ Jesus, so that united in mind and voice you may give glory to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It can only be to God’s glory, then, for you to treat each other in the same friendly way as Christ treated you. The reason Christ became the servant of circumcised Jews was not only so that God could faithfully carry out the promises made to the patriarchs, it was also to get the pagans to give glory to God for his mercy, as scripture says in one place: For this I shall praise you among the pagans and sing to your name.
In due course John the Baptist appeared; he preached in the wilderness of Judaea and this was his message: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’ This was the man the prophet Isaiah spoke of when he said:
A voice cries in the wilderness:
Prepare a way for the Lord,
make his paths straight.
This man John wore a garment made of camel-hair with a leather belt round his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judaea and the whole Jordan district made their way to him, and as they were baptised by him in the river Jordan they confessed their sins. But when he saw a number of Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism he said to them, ‘Brood of vipers, who warned you to fly from the retribution that is coming? But if you are repentant, produce the appropriate fruit, and do not presume to tell yourselves, “We have Abraham for our father,” because, I tell you, God can raise children for Abraham from these stones. Even now the axe is laid to the roots of the trees, so that any tree which fails to produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown on the fire. I baptise you in water for repentance, but the one who follows me is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to carry his sandals; he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fan is in his hand; he will clear his threshing-floor and gather his wheat into the barn; but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out.’
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.”
As we light the second candle of Advent, we light the candle of preparation. What is it that we actually need to prepare for the coming of our Lord? At this time of the year, we usually find ourselves preparing gifts, food, entertainment, outings and celebrations.
The Gospel today calls for us to do otherwise, “A voice cries in the wilderness: Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight.” We are called to prepare a way for the Lord. Given the example of John the Baptist, the preparation we need to make is that of a gift of ourselves, to prepare our hearts for Christ to enter once again. But more than that, it also speaks of a time of reaching out, a time of returning, a time where we share the excitement of the coming of our King, our Lord.
Why should we be excited? We read in the first reading of how life can actually spring from dead wood, we read of how “Integrity is the loincloth round his waist, faithfulness the belt about his hips.” Where God seeks for us to live together in unity, in peace. And in the second reading where “he who helps us when we refuse to give up, help you all to be tolerant with each other, following the example of Christ Jesus, so that united in mind and voice you may give glory to God”.
There is a sense of hope for humanity, especially in our world today, where there are so many things we don’t understand. Election candidates, ISIS, immigration, wars and many more. Where man seeks to protect, man also harms. Where man seeks to love, man also destroys. Where man seeks to unite, man also divides.
Imperfect and broken as we are, we should learn not to rely on our own strength but that of the Saviour who is to come. In all our selfishness and pride, we are called to repentance for it is only in Christ that we can bring perfect love, perfect unity by offering our hearts and lives to him. This is given to us by Christ through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, a Sacrament that is really about hope, about love and mercy and not so much to instil fear and punishment.
Let us make a conscious effort to seek the true gifts this Christmas — the gift of our lives, the gift of Christ. To prepare ourselves and our hearts. To spread the hope of the coming of our Lord for, as the psalmist says, “In his days justice shall flourish and peace till the moon fails.”
(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)
Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for wisdom, that we may truly cherish the things that matter, that we will make a gift of ourselves this Christmas to you for it is by the gift of yourself that we have this life, our hope and salvation.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the gift of your unconditional love, for your mercy, for your Son.