Sunday Sermon for December 6, 2020, the Second Sunday of Advent, Year B

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

In the first reading the Lord tells the Prophet Isaiah to speak tenderly to Jerusalem and to speak words of comfort.  At the time Isaiah was writing, the people were just coming back from exile.  Unsure and confused, Isaiah is to comfort the people by telling them their service is at an end and their guilt is expiated; indeed, Jerusalem had received double for all her sins.

I am not sure the Lord will be speaking words of comfort to us just yet.  It seems we are only at the beginning of the time of paying for our sins.  When we consider the sins of America, they are great.  Thankfully, the people of America have also been among the most charitable in the world and have done a great amount of good.  But when we consider the number of abortions that have taken place in our land, as well as the pornography and contraceptives we have exported to the rest of the world, this only begins to address the massive amount of sin for which our nation is guilty.

I shudder to think what it will be like if we, like Jerusalem, are to receive double for our sins.  While the points I have already mentioned are horrible, we can add the degradation of the Mass, the failure to encourage confession, the innumerable sacrilegious Communions, and the general lukewarm attitude of Bishops, Priests, and laity alike, double for our sins may be more than we can survive.

We can learn from the people of Jerusalem, however, what we might be able to do to mitigate the sentence that will be pronounced upon us.  God is merciful, and He always provides a means for people to repent.  This happened many times before Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians.  It happened, as we see in the Gospel, before our Lord was revealed to Israel, and it happened again before Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. 

What we see in the first reading is that even when the people refused to accept the words of the Prophets whom God sent to them, the Lord still saved a remnant of the people.  He purified them during their time of exile, then brought them back to their own land where they would live holy lives with their focus on serving the Lord and one another.  The Prophet Isaiah tells the people, having been purified and now preparing to return to Jerusalem, that they are to prepare a way in the desert and to make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God.

This is the same message we see in the Gospel today when St. John the Baptist preached to the people in preparation for the coming of the Messiah.  Many people from Jerusalem and the surrounding area went out to hear the Baptist preach.  His was not an easy message to hear, but a call to repentance so the people would turn from their evil ways in order to serve God and neighbor.  It was a call to holiness. 

God still calls us to repentance and to holiness.  Thankfully, many people continue to respond to the Lord’s grace and are striving to live holy lives.  Many recognize that God is calling them to do penance for their own sins, and also for the sins of others.  Each of us is called by God to live according to His holy will.  We are all called to be Saints, but the way we will live out that call will be different for each person.  What is necessary is that we choose to do God’s will in our lives and that we work to make a way for the Lord in our hearts that is straight, level, and smooth.

As we think about the possibility of being purified as individuals and as a nation, we must look at two points St. Peter makes in the second reading.  First is the patience and mercy of God.  St. Peter reminds us that God’s patience is to give as many as possible the opportunity to repent because in His love for us, the Lord does not want anyone to perish.  Secondly, St. Peter reminds us that the world is going to end one day.  All that will remain after that time are the three Persons of the Trinity, the angels, and human persons; everything else will be destroyed.

Because we are immortal, God wants us to be saved and to go to Heaven.  The only other option is one we would not choose, even for our enemies.  It is with this in mind that St. Peter tells us to conduct ourselves in holiness and devotion, eager to be found without spot or blemish before the Lord.  In the Lord is our comfort; in Him is our peace.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.

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