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Second Sunday – Year C – Advent
Readings: Bar 5:1-9; Phi 1:4-6, 8-11; Lk 3:1-6.
1/ First Reading: NAB Baruch 5:1 Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever: 2 Wrapped in the cloak of justice from God, bear on your head the mitre that displays the glory of the eternal name. 3 For God will show all the earth your splendor: 4 you will be named by God forever the peace of justice, the glory of God’s worship. 5 Up, Jerusalem! stand upon the heights; look to the east and see your children gathered from the east and the west at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that they are remembered by God. 6 Led away on foot by their enemies they left you: but God will bring them back to you borne aloft in glory as on royal thrones. 7 For God has commanded that every lofty mountain be made low, and that the age-old depths and gorges be filled to level ground, that Israel may advance secure in the glory of God. 8 The forests and every fragrant kind of tree have overshadowed Israel at God’s command; 9 for God is leading Israel in joy by the light of his glory, with his mercy and justice for company.
2/ Second Reading: NAB Philippians 1:4 Praying always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, 5 because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now. 6 I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. 8 For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, 10 to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
3/ Gospel: NAB Luke 3:1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert. 3 He went throughout (the) whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4 as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. 5 Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, 6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'”
Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh M. Tien, O.P.
I. THEME: The important presence of God in the human life
God’s love and power protect people all moments of their life; but to recognize them, people need the eye of faith and the full love of heart. Many people think that they can find glory for themselves without God’s help; but reality shows that kind of glory is only temporal, fake and doesn’t bring true joy and peace for them.
Today readings want to emphasize God’s important presence in the human life and the necessary to prepare our mind to be able to receive him. In the first reading, the prophet Baruch recognized the foolishness of the Israelites when they forsook God to chase after foreign gods and vain glories of the world. The results of their reckless life were their country is lost, the temple is completely destroyed, the kings and all people are on exile. However, Baruch also recognized love and power of God’s plan: If people repent and return, God shall take off their robe of mourning and misery, put on them the robe of righteousness and the glorious throne and shine His splendor of glory on them forever. In the second reading, St. Paul, after having experience of the one who is completely possessed by Christ, shared his joy and prayed for the faithful to also share his joy and happiness. He advised them to completely put their faith and love in Christ and to live holy when they are waiting for his second coming. In the Gospel, God gave John the Baptist the mission to prepare the way for the Messiah to come by calling people to prepare their mind and to change their life. When the Messiah appears, only those who prepared shall see God’s salvation.
1/ Reading I: God shall let all the earth to see Jerusalem’s splendor.
1.1/ God is the One who shall liberate Israel from exile: Baruch is considered by many as Jeremiah’s secretary. His Book could be written during the exile or after it, when he had the occasion to reflect on God’s love for the Israelites though they betrayed Him.
(1) God punished and then had compassion: Baruch reflected on Israel’s history and recognized God’s power. He controlled all political powers to punish the Israelites and to sent them on exile before He gave them an opportunity to come back. The purpose of His punishment is to let the Israelites recognize His love and power for them. The Book has many similar ideas with Jeremiah’s Book; one of the similar image is that they compared Jerusalem as a wife who lost her husband, God, and her children, the exiled people. These losts were mocked by the Gentiles and the Israelites felt more painful and shameful.
Today passage emphasized that God shall completely reverse the fate of the Jerusalem’s mother in the day He liberates her. He shall let all the earth see the glory of Jerusalem, as announced by the prophet: “Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever:Wrapped in the cloak of justice from God, bear on your head the mitre that displays the glory of the eternal name.For God will show all the earth your splendor.”
Two valuable lessons God taught the Israelites: First, the glory comes from the fear of God. All worldly glories are temporal and cause for them all kinds of shame. Secondly, true peace is built on justice. If they don’t obey God’s law by treating people with justice, war shall spread out and the humankind shall never has true peace.
(2) The Israelites shall triumphantly return from exile: There are two fulfillments of this prophecy. First, there is the return of the Israelites to their country on 538 B.C. according to Cyrus’ decree, the Persian king. This return though joyful but not glorious splendor as the author’s description in today passage: “Led away on foot by their enemies they left you: but God will bring them back to you borne aloft in glory as on royal thrones.” Secondly, the author might want to mention the glory of Israel when the Messiah come.
1.2/ The Israelites must prepare to welcome the Messiah: In order for all these things to happen, the Israelites must prepare their mind, repent from all sins they committed against God and put their faith and love in God. The author wrote: “For God has commanded that every lofty mountain be made low, and that the age-old depths and gorges be filled to level ground, that Israel may advance secure in the glory of God.” The lofty mountain can be undestood as the Israelites’ pride which needs to be made low; and the “age-old depths and gorges” can be understood as their all kinds of greed which need to be filled up so that they may advance secure in the glory of God.
When God leads His people to come back, Israel shall be prosperous and peaceful: “The forests and every fragrant kind of tree have overshadowed Israel at God’s command;for God is leading Israel in joy by the light of his glory, with his mercy and justice for company.”
2/ Reading II: God shall complete what He begins in human beings.
2.1/ God has begun all things in men: St. Paul wrote his Letter to the Philippians when he was in prison. This is one of his beloved community. There are two things Paul wanted to share with them: First, God is the One that begins the journey of faith in human beings when He helps them to understand what Paul preached about Christ so that they might believe in him. Not only that, He also nourishes and supports their faith so they can be loyal to him until the end. St. Paul confirmed this point in saying, “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” In other words, from beginning until the end, human faith is come from God’s grace. Secondly, God let people involve in the preaching of the gospel. According to St. Paul’s experience, the preaching of the gospel isn’t a duty; but a favor which God gives to the faithful so they can co-operate with Him in expanding of His kingdom.
2.2/ Righteousness is the result of God’s grace and human co-operation: St. Paul asked God two things for the Philippians:
(1) God bestows love: Christ’s love is the force that motivates St. Paul and the faithful to do all things. He said, “For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.And this is my prayer that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception.”
Charity is the first and principle condition that motivates learning: when loving someone or something, people shall look for all opportunities to learn so thet they might know that people or thing more. If there is no motivation of love, people shall not bother to learn. The more people learn, the more knowledge shall people have. When the faithful eagerly love Christ, they shall make an effort to know him; and the more they know about Christ, the more they understand what relate to him. This true knowledge shall help the faithful to recognize world’s falsities.
(2) The faithful live a holy life: Faith is never purely knowledge, but shall motivate people to act. Once again, St. Paul showed salvation comes to human beings not only by faith, but also by deeds which are necessary to verify their faith. The faithful must do two things while waiting for Christ’s second coming which are to keep them free from sins and to make an effort to become more holy. Only by doing so, the faithful can be “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.”
3/ Gospel: All must prepare a way for Christ to come.
3.1/ The political and religious backgrounds at the time of Christ’s incarnation: In the first part of today passage, St. Luke wanted to emphasize on the historicity of Christ’s incarnation in the situations of the world.
(1) The situation of the world: All the Ancient Near East nations were under the government of the Roman Empire, “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar.”
(2) The situation of Palestine: Before King Herode the Great passed away, he divided his kingdom into three regions for three of his children to govern: Herod Antipas was tetrarch of Galilee; Philip was tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis and Herode Archelaus was tetrarch of Judah. St. Luke also mentioned another, Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene. Pontius Pilate, the Roman pontiff, was governor of Judea.
(2) The religious situation: Hannah was the retired high priest but still had powerful authority; his son-in-law, Caiaphas, was the present high priest but depended mostly on Hannah.
Living under the dominion of the Roman Empire, the nation was divided in three or four parts, together with the division between religious leaders, the Israelites looked for the coming of the Messiah to liberate them from these powers.
3.2/ The mission of John the Baptist: God still remembered His people during this difficult situation; He sent John the Baptist to bring the Good New for people as St. Luke reported: “The word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert. He went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”
John’s mission was to prepare people’s mind to receive the Messiah. His mission was foretold in the Book of Isaiah: “A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth,and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”
Not all people have ability to receive the precious gift, the Only Son, whom the Father sent to them. In order to recognize and to receive him, people must prepare their mind together with God’s grace. What John Baptist advised people in this passage is not outside but inside preparation. People must eliminate from them pride, selfishness, all kinds of greed, etc. before they can receive God’s salvation.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– God has power to do everything for men. In order to have God’s glory to shine in our life, we need to revere God and completely trust in Him.
– In order to receive God, we need to properly prepare our mind by avoiding sins and by practicing virtues to become more pure and holy everyday.
– Salvation isn’t only for a nation or a group of people, but is extended to all nations and people. We are invited to co-operate with God in bringing of his salvation to all people.