December 10, 2017
by Larry Gillick, S.J.
Creighton University's Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
click here for photo and information about the writer

Second Sunday of Advent
Lectionary: 5

Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
Psalms 85:9-10-11-12, 13-14
2 Peter 3:8-14
Mark 1:1-8

Today's Advent Prayer

Praying Advent Home Page

Pope Francis on this day-2014

Dinner Prayers for the First Part of Advent

Becoming John the Baptist
- Preparing the Way for Jesus

Advent has only three full weeks this year.  Christmas Eve’s being on a Sunday means that the fourth week is only a short few hours.  “So”, we say-pray, “Better get with the program.”  We wish sincerely that we could be better, shape up, repent, respond, re-up, re-everything! Within this Advent-sense of our being behind spiritually, comes our First Reading for this Eucharist’s liturgy.

Israel, aka Zion, Jerusalem, is in captivity, far from their holy temple, far from feeling any “comfort” or any sense of being carried or cared-for. We hear the Prophet shouting to the alienated what he himself has heard. Our whole First Reading contains promises and hopeful images of just what God is going to do.

A negative misunderstanding is easily made while we listen to the declaration of God’s fidelity contained in this reading. We can interpret that we do all the work of straightening our roads, filling in our valleys, leveling our mountains and then the Shepherd will be pleased and will return us to our holy-selves. This does not sound much like “comfort.”

One form of Advent-prayer is to sit in the exile of ‘not-being-enough’ surrounded by the valleys of insufficiency and the mountains of religious “shoulds” and “ought-tos.”   All our Advent Readings and liturgies can be interpreted as a series of divine finger-pointing and demands for “more of this and less of that!”

The Psalm-Response places the emphasis directly on what the Lord does always. The real question is about whether Advent is the time for our coming close to God or God’s already being closer to us than we are to ourselves. Advent is our prayer-time to get closer to where God already has come, our holy temple, our simple selves. This closeness is where the Spiritual Life is lived and what goes on in Advent is not so much repentance and reconciliation, but recovery.  As is said in the Twelve Step programs, “The road to recovery is always under construction.” In our northern sections of the United States, it is said, that there are two seasons within the year, winter and road-repair. Advent is the season to allow ourselves time for God’s recovery of ourselves. 

The Gospel of Mark contains the opening dramatic presentation, that all the verses of this Gospel are “Good News” of Jesus’ being the Son of God. The first scene in the playing-out of this Good News is John the Baptist’s fulfilling the prophecy we hear in our First Reading. John clarifies so early in his preaching and baptizing that he is not the Son of God, but a prophet-Isaiah fulfiller. There is to be a mightier-One Who will be the Giver of a new baptism. The baptism will be the embrace of the human condition by the Creating-spirit. This Spirit will continue the reconstruction of our creation. It will aid the recovery of our self-sad-isfying negativity about how deep we are in our valleys. The mountains of a false sense of pride convince us that we should be better and holier and ought to have been and will be gooder for Christmas this year! This new baptism is for the recovery of who we really are; the ones sought-for, cared-for, created-for.

We have three weeks and a part of a day, plus the rest of our lives to allow Jesus to advance toward us, not with the finger of disappointment and accusation, but the inviting gesture of recovery. Jesus is not coming; He is here! Our Advent prayer is to reside again, re-home where He comforts and re-covers our images of His Self in ours.

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