Dec. 9, 2017

SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT, 2017

DIVINE COMFORT: THE BEST PRODUCT OF THE SEASON

Readings: 1st- Is. 40:1-5, 9-11; 2nd- 2Pet. 3:8-14; Gospel- Mk. 1:1-8 

Business owners and marketers advertise their products. They make them attractive to prospective customers. Marketers develop the best jingles for their commercials. The prophet Isaiah does same for God today. He acts like the Lord’s salesman presenting the divine offer; the Lord’s comfort is the best product for the season.

“Comfort my people, comfort them”, says the Lord (Is. 40:1). This book of Consolation begins the second part of Isaiah’s prophetic writings, what is called Deutero Isaiah (chapter 40 to 55). It is written for the people of Israel at the end of their Babylonian exile around the Sixth Century BC. The people are on the verge of losing hope having endured years of separation from their land and their God. The prophet offers them hope and comfort. He offers them freedom from captivity. More so, he rekindles in them God’s love and his reassuring intimacy. God’s tenderness and compassion is the reason for consolation; “Here is your God! Here comes with power the Lord God, who rules with strong arm… Like a shepherd he feeds his flock, in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care”. 

What the prophet Isaiah offers to the Old Testament Israel, John the Baptist offers to the New people of God. The 2018 Workbook for Lectors remark, “Three biblical figures express in different ways the spirit of the season of advent: the prophet Isaiah, whose words create hope and expectation; Mary, the mother of Jesus, whose obedience opened the door to the Incarnation; and John the Baptist, whose ministry was to prepare the way of the Lord”. John the Baptist is not just another prophet, he is an introduction to the Jesus’ chapter. Mark’s gospel captures his message as “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God” (Mk. 1:1). It says, “John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”.  

Just like investors prepare to do business, to take advantage of opportunities, John the Baptist invites believers to prepare. Repentance is the price, while the reward is forgiveness. John’s preaching drew a large crowd of people because of the reward of forgiveness from the Lord. The people are consoled by his words. They expect their sins to be forgiven. They expect their bad ways to be corrected. They expect deliverance from the Messiah. They believe in John because he spoke passionately about the Messiah. John’s marketing strategy is powerful. He offers the people a sample of the product from his master, baptizing them in the Jordan River. Hence, he declares, “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals”.

Christ is the mighty one, the Messiah we are waiting for. The advent invitation is that we prepare to welcome him. We must get ready to invest in the “best product” ever- John calls him, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29-30). The prophet Isaiah gives us an idea of what our business plans should look like: “Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!” Saint Peter expounds God’s offer in the second reading, recognizing the privilege of being part of the heralds of his coming. He reminds us that God does not delay, he is only being patient with us. He desires our salvation and so invites us to repentance. The divine package is an amazing gift for believers, “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:13). God is giving us extraordinary gift, newness of life completely transformed by the coming of Christ. We must therefore aspire to receive it, to be found without spot or blemish, to be at peace. That is the great consolation.

I wish to ask that each of us make a commitment at this advent in view of Christmas. That is our business plan to invest in the Lord’s offer. The prophet says, “Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low, the rugged land shall be made plain, the rough country, a broad valley. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together” (Is.40: 4-5). What valleys need to be filled up in your life? What mountains need leveling? What rugged lands need to be made smooth? Is there a relationship that has bothered you for years now? This is the time to smoothen it. Someone tells me -It is my relationship with my dad. We have not been in good terms for the past ten years. Each time I come to church, my wish is to not hear the pastor preach about forgiveness because I’m not ready for it, just that one relationship. I’m good with every other one. Each Christmas, I feel as if my celebration is incomplete. I feel like it’s not that time yet to let go of the hurt I feel for my dad. But it is suffocating me inside. I come to advent confession, and wish that the priest doesn’t tells me to go and make peace with my father. I can take any other penance but not that. What do I do? 

Go and level that mountain, the Lord is offering you another opportunity. He offers you comfort in the healing that comes from reconciliation with one another, with your father. Go, fill up the valley. That’s the rough road you need to smoothen. And together, like the prophet said, all people shall see the glory of Christmas. Have you ever witnessed the joy of a family reunion before? Of course, no reunion can take place without forgiveness. No reunion can happen where there is no peace because the Lord Jesus is our Peace. And peace comes through sacrifice. God brings us comfort and consolation today, as Peter says, “The Lord does not delay his promise” (2 Pet. 3:9). Let us not remain exiled by hatred and anger. Let us not remain exiled by iniquity and sinfulness. Let us not remain exiled by divisiveness and pride. God’s comfort is here. It is the best product of the season. It is free, made available for us in Christ Jesus. We must reach out to take it.