10 December 2017. 2nd Sunday of Advent

John the Baptist prepares the way. When Jesus arrives, John disappears gracefully from the scene.

See our Readings app  (NRSV; android) @ Google Playstore.
Also: Kieran O’Mahony’s exegetical comments on the Readings

1st Reading: Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11

God is coming to save his people and to open up our way into the future.

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her
that she has served her term,
that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.

A voice cries out:
“In the desert prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Get you up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good tidings;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,
lift it up, do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!”

See, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead the mother sheep.

2nd Reading: Second Epistle of St. Peter 3:8-14

God gives us time to repent and so be ready to meet him when he comes.

But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.

Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.

Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish.

Gospel: Mark 1:1-8

John the Baptist prepares the people for the coming of their Saviour

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’”

John the baptizer appeared in the desert, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I 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.”


A preacher’s job

John the Baptist could be the main focus in today’s homily. He prepared the minds of people in his circle to welcome the bringer of salvation. That is how God seems to work: sending the message of salvation and meaningful living to us through each other. St Paul once asked two vital questions, “How can people know about God if they have never heard? and how can they hear if nobody is sent to them?” So the vocation to proclaim or preach religious truth is vital, if God is to be known and loved. Jesus found his first disciples among the circle of the Baptist’s followers. It was John who showed them the value of self-control and of prayer, who urged them to listen to the inner voice of God, with a contrite and faithful heart. The high point of John’s short ministry was meeting with Jesus. Not only did he baptise Our Lord but he sent some of his own followers to join the Jesus movement. Through him, Andrew and his brother Peter, and Philip and Nathanael became apostles.

God still wants us to help help other people to know and love him. If we were more committed as Christians, maybe we could do more to influence others towards faith in God. Parents can introduce their children to God, with words about trust and prayer. But their words will only be effective if built on the example of their actual life. In all sorts of way, people are in position to influence others, for good or ill. This is clearly so for those who work in the communications media, press, radio and T.V. But ordinary people doing ordinary jobs can also influence the views and values of those they interact with. In light of today’s portrayal of John the Baptist, does our way of speaking and behaving help others to share our values, or do we confirm their suspicion that this world is a selfish and cynical place?

What about promoting vocations to the priesthood or other ministry, or any form of service to the church of Christ? The future of our church as an organised, priest-served community handing on the prayer-life and values of Jesus is under serious question today. But if enough people open their hearts to God’s work, like John the Baptist and those first disciples, Andrew and Philip and Peter, then a way will be found to keep the world aware of the saving message of Christ. In the process, our bishops may need to be urged by many practicing Catholics to open up the priesthood to well motivated, devoted married people, as well as to the traditional but diminishing cadre of the voluntarily celibate.

John’s challenging message

The call of John the Baptist is a challenging but also a consoling word, John calls on us to turn our hearts is not one who offers us life. The voice crying in the wilderness is indeed a voice of consolation. In the opening words of Isaiah in today’s first reading, ‘Console my people, console them. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem.’ At the end of that reading, Isaiah declares, ‘Here is the Lord coming with power.’

The word ‘power’ can have negative echoes for us, suggesting an overbearing will to dominate others. The power of the Lord that Isaiah speaks about is of a different kind. God is like a shepherd feeding his flock, gathering lambs in his arms, holding them to his breast, and gently leading the mother-ewes who are due to give birth. This is a very tender power, a life-force of faithful and enduring love, a love that gathers and nurtures and reassures. This is the God whom John the Baptist invites us to rediscover this Advent.

It is this God who comes to us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. In the gospel, the Baptist refers to Jesus as ‘more powerful than I am.’ He is the more powerful one, in the sense that the first reading defines power. It is Jesus who gives full expression to God’s tender love that brings healing to the broken, strength to the weak and rest to the weary. It is this adult Jesus, now risen Lord, whose coming towards us and present to us we celebrate at Christmas. The Baptist calls us this Advent to prepare a way in our lives for the coming of this Lord, this Shepherd, in whom, as said in the Responsorial Psalm, mercy and faithfulness have met, justice and peace have embraced. This is the one we are called to meet this Advent, who can give greater depth to all our other encounters.

Eoin Baiste agus Gairmeacha Eaglasta

Cé a d’fhéadfadh gairm a bheith aige nó aice do sheirbhís an Bhriathair inniú? Do’n sagartacht nó d’aireacht éigin eile eaglasta, ag freastal ar Phobal Dé? Is léir go bhfuil amárach ár n’eaglaise (mar phobal creidimh a chlaíonn le luachanna Íosa ) in amhras inniú. Ach má bhéidh go leór daoine ag oscailt a gcroí le gairm Dé, cosúil le Eoin Baiste agus na chéad aspail  Andrias agus Pilib agus Peadar, bhéidh bealach ann chun an domhan a choimead ar eolas faoi ghrásta ár Slánaitheoir Íosa Chríost. Sa phróiseas, b’fhéidir go dtabharfaidh go leór Caitlicigh spreagadh d’ár n-easpaigí an sagartacht a oscailt do dhaoine pósta ullmhaithe, chun aghaidh a chur ar laghdú drámatúil gairmeacha do’n saol aonarach deonach (Aontumhacht).



    John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.Such type of clothing and eating, what did it reflect in the Jewish culture?

  2. Pádraig McCarthy says:

    2 Kings 1:8: “A man wearing a hair cloak, they answered, “and a leather loincloth.” “It was Elijah the Tishbite” the king said.
    Mark’s Greek has: “a leather girdle around his loins” – a leather loincloth.
    John is the Elijah who was to come.
    (The Jerusalem Bible has the alternative shorter version: “John wore a garment of camel-skin.” John was the patron saint of the guild of tailors in Dublin!
    The “good news”: like the announcement of a royal wedding! Or of the victory at Marathon.
    The summary of the Gospel: Peter: “You are the Christ” – Mark 8:29.
    The centurion: “In truth this man was a son of God.”
    I am going to send my messenger before you: like John, the Forerunner (Prodromos), we too prepare the way.
    We remember the three advents: the coming in Bethlehem, the coming today (each day), the coming in glory. In recognising his coming today we celebrate the reality of the birth bringing the living presence into our deserts and homes, and we are forerunners and prophets of the glory.
    John, the son of Zechariah the priest, speaks the Word not in the holy place, the temple, but in the desert, as the people of Israel heard the Word in the desert as they were formed as a people.
    Baptism of repentance: a changed, renewed life with a different direction.
    In the river Jordan: as the people of Israel entered their new life in the promised land.
    Locusts: They can grow to 8cm, 3 inches. The grasshopper family. I have seen them cooked and eaten in South Africa: a good source of protein. (No, I didn’t bring myself to try them!)
    First Reading: Isaiah 40: The Book of Consolation. Remember Handel’s setting in “Messiah”: “Comfort ye – comfort ye my people.” We are messengers of good news. “Shout without fear: Here is your God!”

  3. Brian Fahy says:

    A day and a thousand years

    2 Peter 3:8-14

    A day can mean a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day. So says Saint Peter to us. This profound and magnificent statement reveals to us that every moment of life is here and now before the face of God. All life, yesterday, today and tomorrow, and forever is constantly present to the living Lord of all. What we try to express in the phrase – the eternal now – brings home to us in this moment that every moment of our life is vitally real and important. Even our darkest days, when everything seems null and void, are before God’s face and his grace will bring us through.

    All our yesterdays, and the people who inhabited them are alive in God. All our hopes for tomorrow are a promise that the Lord will see fulfilled. And today is the moment of life that we are invited to inhabit with all the kindness and patience that we can muster. Life is a gift not just in general but in each moment and each new day. We are constantly in God’s sight and his gaze is his care for us.

    On the cross of Calvary, in his dying breath Jesus gave himself into his Father’s hands. Into your hands I commend my spirit. In this same way we are encouraged to give our loved ones into the hands of God. When we lose those we love in this world, we can turn that experience from one of loss into one of entrusting. Into your hands, O Lord, we entrust those who have now died. So we do not mourn over them like those who have no hope. Those holy souls now live in the light of the Lord, and we can be close to them when we understand that, when we accept it, when we give our loved ones into God’s abiding care.

    In our own daily lives, the longer we live, and the older we get we come to realise that only goodness is worth doing. Nothing else has any value. Nothing else is worth the while. What our mothers told us in childhood – be good – is the beginning and the end of all wisdom.

    Every word we utter, every thing we do, if it bears the stamp of goodness and kindness and patience, will bear fruit in this world. Anything negative will simply die and rot away. So while we wait in hope for the place where righteousness will be at home Saint Peter tells us again today to live lives without spot or stain so that the Lord will find us at peace.

    We are tempted every day to use force and hostile argument to advance our cause and to put this world to rights. In politics and in personal life we stress and strain ourselves to sort things out. The way of goodness does not impress us when ‘things need to be done.’ The simple wisdom of goodness is not understood at all.

    It was in training to be a mediator, when my priestly days were done, that I came to fully understand the vital importance of saying positive things and helping others to say the positive things that they really seek. I learned how to translate negative feelings into positive statements, the kind that build up and provide what is needed for any community life.

    If the word of God means anything to us it must be to teach us how to speak well to one another, and especially to those who are our opponents. Words are wonderful when well used. Jesus himself is God’s word. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God.

    Since God wants no one to be lost and everyone to change his ways, let us live holy and saintly lives today and every day. Hitler boasted of a kingdom that would last a thousand years but only succeeded in destroying millions of lives. His negativity knew no bounds. He was trapped in hatred and anger and he trapped a nation with him.

    If the world lasts for a thousand years, or many thousands, it still remains true that doing good today will be our finest hour.

    Brian Fahy
    10 December 2017

Join the Discussion

Keep the following in mind when writing a comment

  • Your comment must include your full name, and email. (email will not be published). You may be contacted by email, and it is possible you might be requested to supply your postal address to verify your identity.
  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger. Comments containing vulgarities, personalised insults, slanders or accusations shall be deleted.
  • Keep to the point. Deliberate digressions don't aid the discussion.
  • Including multiple links or coding in your comment will increase the chances of it being automati cally marked as spam.
  • Posts that are merely links to other sites or lengthy quotes may not be published.
  • Brevity. Like homilies keep you comments as short as possible; continued repetitions of a point over various threads will not be published.
  • The decision to publish or not publish a comment is made by the site editor. It will not be possible to reply individually to those whose comments are not published.