II Sunday of Advent

II Sunday of Advent

Sab, 05 Dic 20 Lectio Divina - Anno B

Is 40, 1-5.9-11 , 2Pt 3,8-14, Mk 1,1-8

 

Today's first reading, taken from the prophet Isaiah (40: 1-5.9-11), has as its theme the announcement of great consolation for the people of Israel, exiled to Babylon ( from 597 to 538 BC ). It is to be dated around 540; the chosen people come to the idea that the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile in a foreign land were the consequences of God's punishment for their grave sins of idolatry and injustice, and they think that the deserved punishment would have prolonged the exile even longer; and, instead, here is the good news of the prophet: "Comfort, comfort my people ...  The prophet finally invites the people to consolation and to prepare a way for a comfortable and joyful return to the homeland; an unexpected return for a people reduced to slavery; along the smooth road, Israel would return home and with them the glory of the Lord would be manifested, bringing joy and peace; the Lord would manifest himself as a triumph, as a powerful ruler, as a shepherd attentive to the needs of his sheep, gently carrying the lambs on his shoulder. These beautiful images are a source of enthusiasm for those people, eager for serenity and freedom!

This prophecy, if on the one hand, announces the unexpected return, which then turns out to be true when, in 538 BC Cyrus, king of Persia, leaves Israel free to return from Babylon to Jerusalem; on the other hand, it refers to something that goes far beyond that historical return, that is to the messianic time, a pledge of spiritual freedom and eternal salvation!

In the second reading, taken from the second letter of Peter (2 Pt 3,8-14), the author addresses those Christians who are impatient in waiting for the Lord's return and therefore disappointed by his delay; in fact, the idea had spread among them that the return of Christ was imminent; St. Peter, therefore, tries to explain the correct meaning of waiting for the day of the Lord, which will certainly come: we must not worry about knowing the precise time of this return, but rather prepare for it adequately! Especially since Christians thought that " the future day of the Lord " would be a day of judgment only for their enemies and not for them! Thus, Peter exhorts us to consider that for the Lord "a thousand years are like one day" (v. 8) so that long-awaited day could be every day of our life and, therefore, the Christian is called to commit himself to the conversion in every moment of one's existence! Moreover, the Lord awaits us on the path of our conversion; He does not want anyone to get lost, but that all have the opportunity to repent" (v. 9) and therefore to be saved!    

In this passage, St. Peter, in trying to describe that future " Lord's day ", uses an apocalyptic language, proper to his time; this literary genre, usually used to encourage believers in the expectation of an extraordinary intervention of liberation by God for his people humiliated by historical circumstances, is used here, instead, to shake Christians from their doubts and false expectations. Christ's return is slow in manifesting itself not because he has forgotten his promises, but because, in His mercy, he expects everyone to convert and be saved; this is divine justice! The image of fire, which destroys heaven and earth so that new heavens and earth may be regenerated (cf. vv. 12-13), underlies a radical elimination of human injustice so that it gives way to "justice", the divine one!  

            A cry comes today to awaken us from the drowsiness of our days, from the daze of cars racing in the city, frantically rushing behind the many daily commitments. This cry comes directly from the desert, that is, from a space exactly opposite to the city and its disorder. A cry born of silence, the only dimension that allows you to listen, understand and discern. With this cry begins the 'gospel' of Mark or that good news (in Greek euanghélion ) announced by Jesus Christ, Son of God and which is anticipated by the cry of a man who preaches in the desert and who is preparing the way for the Lord. 

The arrival of the Son of God is not heralded as a twist. It is not a surprise event in history, but the fulfilment of a promise of the Lord which has its origins in the long dialogue that has taken place over the centuries between God and the people of Israel. Precisely for this reason, the solemn opening of the Gospel of Mark is connected directly to the words of the prophet Isaiah who, in turn, quoted even more ancient texts (Malachi and Exodus) in which God announced to his people the good news of the forthcoming liberation and of the advent of the Messiah Saviour: " Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem and cry to her that her slavery is over" (Is 40,1-2). Therefore, already in Isaiah the announcement of liberation is proclaimed to Israel. The Jews will be freed from the yoke of Babylonian slavery, they will be able to return to the holy land with a new and second exodus and restore Jerusalem, a prefiguration of the universal kingdom of God.   

But if the historical slavery of the Jews ends thanks to the arrival of the Persians, the much more deeply rooted human slavery, subjugated to sin and death, is not resolved in the same way. The desperate need for life, the need to stop every form of evil that oppresses us in the course of our existence, is cried out to God night and day from every corner of the earth to the point of echoing in the same prayer that Jesus taught us "Our Father … deliver us from evil ». All the stronger, then, will be the cry that announces for us the liberation from death and from all its tragic manifestations.   

This is why the extraordinary figure of John the Baptist comes forward. His mission is entirely contained in that cry from the desert with which he calls us to “prepare the way of the Lord" and " make his paths straight ". In the Scriptures, the desert often symbolically indicates the place for repentance and a place for encountering God. It is, therefore, no coincidence that the desert appears as the space of action of the ascetic John who here, in austere and absolute poverty, dressed only in camel hair and fed with locusts and wild honey, preaches a baptism of conversion, in Greek metánoia , that is, a real 'change of mentality', of attitude.      

The Gospel of Mark presents us with an idea that the birth of John the Baptist was the fulfilment of the prophecy of the prophet Isaiah. “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way” in ancient time the way was widened and prepared for the kings who win the battle, the way was prepared ready for the solemn entry of the victorious king. As the prophecy, sending the messenger (John the Baptist) to prepare the way for the glorious entry of the Son of God who defeats the death and wins over the sin by shedding his blood to save humanity. 

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,” preparing the way what does it mean? Certainly, it means to remove the unnecessary objects, which blocks the way. How can we apply this to our lives? It can be applied to our lives by preparing our hearts, eliminating the unnecessary things that are accumulated in us that which is a hindrance to welcome Jesus into us. The messenger the john the Baptist invites the people for the baptism of repentance and forgiveness. We can prepare our hearts by filling our hearts with the true love of God that thrust us to forgive others and see others with the eyes of Jesus.  

But what are our roads like? Are they flat or are they full of hills and mountains such as to prevent not only the journey but also the gaze towards the Lord? 

The simplicity and strength of John, the first witness of salvation, invite us today with the strength to straighten the daily distortions and to proceed with courage towards the desert, towards the emptiness and the silence in which to experience prayer and the essentiality of a life that very often, he is in dire need of knowing locusts and wild honey to be lucid and vigilant before the Lord.      

Because only in this direction will we be sure not to doze off and to keep the cry of salvation alive in our ears and to persevere in waiting for the Lord who comes. 

“The one who is more powerful than me is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals.  I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.  Here the word that we need to pay attention to is "Powerful" what do we consider as powerful in our lives? Jesus will teach us the true fortress and He will give us the new energy that comes from the Holy Spirit who is a Spirit of love and who is not the economic, military, or political power. We can introspect ourselves to discern what do we consider in our lives as powerful? Here we can also perceive the simplicity and the humility of John the Baptist who confesses that he is not worthy even to stoop down the sandals of the one who comes after him. This sort of confession is possible only if we live an interior life, which means to be aware of ourselves, to have a clean and sincere heart filled with the presence of God. This advent can be an auspicious occasion to prepare our hearts to welcome Jesus. 

 

Great and merciful God, may our activity in the world not hinder us on our journey towards your Son, but may the wisdom of your Spirit that comes from heaven guide us, to be in communion with your Son Jesus Christ our Saviour.