Homily/Reflection for 2nd Sunday of Advent, Year A
Theme: “REPENT FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS AT HAND”
In the Church’s Liturgical Calendar, the relationship between Advent and Christmas is like the relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. The Advent which generally calls for preparation for the Lord’s coming appears to be the era of John the Baptist.
None of the Four Evangelists omitted the witness of John and his call for repentance. For all the possible reasons, one that is clear enough is that to receive Jesus Christ one really has to prepare himself or herself through repentance.
While the Gospel reading calls for repentance and preparation for the coming of Christ, the Prince of Peace, the first reading and the Responsorial Psalm present the beauty and peace that will characterize his reign of the Messiah.
The Gospel of Matthew presents the sudden appearance of John the Baptist, introduced as a “Voice” crying. It appears unclear whether the expression “in the wilderness” has to do with the location of the crying Voice or the location where the highway has to be prepared for the coming Messiah. The general oddity characterizing both the Messenger and his Message makes it quite difficult where to place the expression. John the Baptist was a rare witness, his choice of food and clothing suggests he could have been in the wilderness, for everything about him spelt detatchment! The regions of Judea mentioned also had some desert-like outskirts from where John could have emerged from time to time to baptize the teeming crowds in the river Jordan.
However, taken in the context of Isaiah’s prophecy, the desert might have been well suited for the preparation of the highway for the Lord because that will complete the healing of nature and conclude the expectation of all the odd occurrences and bewildering peace that will follow the reign of the Messiah; with the wolf being a guest of the lamb, the leopard lying with the kid, the calf and the young lion browsing together, led by a child, the cow and the bear as close neighbours and their children playing together, the lion eating hay like ox, and the baby left to play by the cobra’s den.
The message of John the Baptist is clear, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”. He, not only announces the kingdom, but sounds a warning on the right disposition to receive it, which is repentance. There is so much to be taken, both from the messenger and his message.
Many would naturally desire the kingdom without accepting the condition for its attainment. The kingdom promises peace and serenity and an abolishment of all enmity and predatory tendencies in every creature.
The major reason for lack of peace in our world today is unbridled desire for worldly things. Even preachers and religious leaders are caught up in the wild craving to devour the goodies of the earth. John the Baptist stands out as the model of the message he preaches. Standing before the Pharisees and Sadducees, clad in animal skin, and with only locusts and wild honey for nourishment, he challenged them to produce good fruits for their repentance. He identified them as brood of vipers, not only venomous in themselves but also drawing a more ominous implication as brood of vipers are known for killing their mothers.
It would no longer be enough for the Pharisees to claim to be children of Abraham, but they have to produce their own good fruits to show their identity.
As Christmas draws nearer, all Christians anticipate the joys of Christmas but not many would yield to the call for repentance. The only preparation for many would be acquisition of worldly things. And in the bid to acquire more, many will become wolves to other men. The police would extort and endanger instead of to protect, teachers and lecturers would extort and demoralize instead of to teach, government officials would embezzle and corrupt the system instead of to protect it, church leaders would milk and milk the flock instead of to feed it. What part of all these are contained in the life of John and his message of repentance?
As we await the coming of the Messiah through the anticipation of Christmas, let us awaken to John’s clear message of repentance. Let us prepare our hearts and not only our hordes. Let us, like John the Baptist, witness to Christ with our lives and not just our lips. Let us always remember that his winnowing fan is in his hand, and at his coming the wheat will be separated from the chaff, one gathered into his ban while the other is burnt.
May the message of John the Baptist penetrate our hearts and make us good for God’s kingdom through Christ our Lord, amen.
-Fr. Precious Ezeh