Fr. Roger J. Landry
Espirito Santo Parish, Fall River, MA
Second Sunday in Advent, Year C
December 10, 2000
Bar 5:1-9; Phil 1:4-6,8-11; Lk 3:1-6
1) In today’s Gospel we meet John the Baptist, who prepared everyone to welcome the Messiah when he was about to start his public ministry. The Church gives us him to help prepare us to receive the Lord in three ways this Advent:
a) 2000 years ago, in history.
b) When he comes on the clouds in glory, on the last day (whenever our last day might be).
c) And also to receive the Lord today in Holy Communion.
John the Baptist helps us to prepare to meet him in each of these three ways.
2) What it his message? His is a voice crying out in the desert, “Make straight the way of the Lord, clear him a straight path.” In the olden days, after all types of wars and worse, when a ruler was coming to a town, they would have to build a road so that he could have access to the city. The roads would have often been destroyed in wars or never have really been decent for a caravan.
3) John the Baptist at the Jordan river proclaimed that the Jews had to make straight the way so that the Messiah could come to them. The Messiah was coming, but they had to be ready. And he says the same thing to all of us this afternoon. The Messiah is definitely coming, but we have to be ready to greet him. The Lord’s way to us can sometimes be so rough, be so cluttered with so many things, false priorities we have, all types of various things we think we “have to” do, that it’s often so hard for the Lord to connect with us. And so this weekend, we have to ask what stands in the way of the Lord in coming to us.
4) When John the Baptist stood at the Jordan River preaching to the Jews, his first words, which we see in St. Matthew’s Gospel, were “Repent for the kingdom of God is near.” He preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He knew that the greatest obstacle between us and the Lord who is coming to us is our sins. Rather than build a straight path to God, our sins are a path away from God, an attempt to burn the bridge behind us on the way to the Lord. Our sins can in a certain way enslave us and make it so much more difficult for the Lord to come set us free.
5) There’s a reason why John the Baptist was preaching at the Jordan river. It was more than just a source of water where he could baptize. The Jordan river was the place which represented the border between the Jews’ slavery in Egypt, their wandering aimlessly in the desert for 38 years, and the Promised Land. By preaching his message there, John was inviting the Jews of his day, to come out of bondage, to leave their sins and wandering, sinful lives behind, and enter into the promised land, enter into God’s territory. He invites us to do the same.
6) So one of the most urgent things for us to do this Lent is to come to repent of our sins because the Lord is near. To repent of our sins means we first have to recognize that we sin. If we don’t have a consciousness that we sin, we don’t need Jesus. Jesus came to save us from our sins, to save us from the eternal death that was the consequence of sin. If we don’t recognize we’re sinners, if we don’t repent of our sins and confess them, then we’re saying that we don’t really need a savior. Jesus didn’t come 2000 years ago in Bethlehem so that we could have a winter feast in which we can wish everybody happy holidays and pass around gifts. He came to save us from ourselves, to save us from our sins. He paid the price for all of our sins on the Cross. What we need to do is to give him our sins though. We have to recognize when we commit a sin and come to him, confess it honestly, make amends for it, and live in his grace in the future.
7) Pope John Paul II has said that one of the greatest crises facing the world is the lack of the sense of sin. Some people don’t even seem to have an idea of what sin is anymore and many others don’t seem to care. People miss Mass — on Sundays or like so many of the English speakers did yesterday on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, a Holy Day of Obligation — and don’t seem to care. Young people use each other as sexual toys and try to pretend as if there’s nothing wrong with it. Husbands and wives divorce to try to marry those who are not their husbands and wives, just like Herod did to Herodias, who killed John the Baptist, and then blame the Church for upholding Jesus’ own teaching that this is adultery. I could go on and on — and so could you — in listing the sins.
8) To all of us, John the Baptist comes and says, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is near!” He takes us to the Jordan and points the way toward freedom, toward Jesus the Messiah. As he said at the Jordan, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!” Jesus takes away our sins. Jesus hates sin, although he loves every sinner and gave his life for the sinner. But what makes him angriest is when people say they are without sin. Pharisee and publican.
9) Over the next couple of weeks, Father Jim and I will be hearing confessions for tens of hours to help you make straight the paths to be ready to receive Jesus. The schedule appears in this weekend’s bulletin. But it begins with a good examination of conscience. Miss Mass? Any sexual sins? Drink too much? Lie? Steal? Try to damage another’s reputation? Fail to help, obey or take care of your parents? Encourage others to sin by setting bad example? Take God’s name in vain? Fail to live as Christ would expect you to do in any circumstances? Fail to love? Fail to be faithful? Fail to have confidence in God? When you honestly make an examination of conscience and come to confess your sins, even though there’s a huge ravine between where you are now and where God wants you to be, he starts building a bridge to you, so that he can carry you on that bridge with him to heaven. Please prepare yourselves to make a good confession this Advent and to recommit yourself so that all of your actions say, “Come, Lord Jesus!”
10) Every Mass, after we repeat those words of JB, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” we pray, “O Lord I am not worthy to receive you but only say the word and I shall be healed.” Jesus says that word in the great sacrament of confession, one of his greatest gifts to the world. Let us be grateful for it and make good use of it so that one day we might cross that Jordan to the promised land with Jesus.