Advent is not only a time of promises and anticipation, but also a homecoming.

Second Sunday of Advent

Baruch 5:1-9

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: you will be named by God forever the peace of justice, the glory of God’s worship. 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. 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. 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 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.

Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11

Brothers and sisters: I pray always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now. 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. 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, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

Luke 3:1-6

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, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert. John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 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. 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.”

Advent is often described as a time of joyful and hopeful waiting; a time of quiet introspection, contemplation, and preparation. This week’s readings paint a vivid picture of what Advent is about. The first reading portrays a scene of absolute exuberance and joy as the Israelites’ time of waiting is finally over. Baruch reassures the people that God will gather “from the east and the west”, bringing their children back to them; Jerusalem will be revived and restored. They will be returning home in glory. They can cast off their “robe of mourning and misery; and put on the splendor of glory from God forever” (Bar 5:1). When the time comes, God’s glory, mercy and justice will overshadow Israel (ref. Bar 5:8). The same joy and relief is mirrored in the Responsorial Psalm. Singing praise and thanksgiving for the Lord’s deliverance, the Psalmist proclaims, “The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad indeed” (Ps 126:3). This good news is, once again, announced by John the Baptist, “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”, and that, “‘all flesh shall see the salvation of God’”, recalling the powerful words of Prophet Isaiah (Lk 3: 3,6). Advent is not only a time of promises and anticipation, but also a homecoming.

It is widely accepted by scholars that Baruch was composed roughly a few years after the destruction of Jerusalem during the times of the Babylonian Exile (ref. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary 563-4) . The prophet assumes the role of Jerusalem’s comforter at the mourning ceremony, urging Jerusalem to exchange the “robe of mourning” for “the cloak of justice from God”; be proud to clothe herself with “the splendor of glory from God forever” (Bar 5:1-2). In other words, God will take away their shame and restore their pride; Jerusalem will, once again, be a place where peace and justice prevail and she will receive eternal glory of God’s worship (ref. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary 566). During these years of exile when the Israelites were drowning in their sorrows and brokenness, is it even possible for them to dream of peace, joy, justice, and most of all, returning home? Yet, they are told, “Up, Jerusalem!” and rejoice. It is possible, Baruch tells them, because “they are remembered by God” (Bar 5:5). God is eternally merciful and faithful; He will never abandon His chosen ones. Baruch reminds the people that they will continue their journey under the protection and tender loving care of God, “Israel may advance secure in the glory of God” where goodness and abundance “overshadowed Israel at God’s command” (Bar 5:7,8). As God gathers all those who have been scattered from east to west, He is also showing them a way home; the way that leads them back to God. This is as much a journey of geography as one of the heart.

As a pilgrim people, we can certainly relate to the brokenness, longing for home, and hope for salvation of the Israelites in exile. In our brokenness, we may not even recognize the presence of God in our lives; but continue to wander in our own spiritual exile. Though our journey may be long and strenuous, we can rejoice like the Israelites, for we, too, are “remembered by God” (Bar 5:5). Luke reminds us of the lone voice “crying out in the desert”; calling us to remember the goodness of the Lord, and that the only way home is to repent. John the Baptist tells us to “prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths” (Lk 3:5). Like Dorothy who finds the Wizard of Oz by following the “yellow brick road” , we, too, must follow Christ, who is the way, the truth and the life, so that our “love may increase … be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:9-11).

During the second week of Advent, may we be attuned to the voice crying in the desert of our hearts. Make straight our crooked ways; recognize the blindspots of our lives and fill our spiritual valley with compassion and kindness; level our mountain of pride and self-centeredness; and in the silence of our hearts, heed the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Let us rejoice and return home this Advent!

Posted: December 5, 2021

Susanna Mak

 
Susanna深信,信仰需要在日常生活中顯露出來,尤其是當與別人相處時,需要分擔對方所面對的困境、抉擇和挑戰。她有着很多不同的身份:女兒、姐姐、朋友、姨姨、妻子、老師、校牧、終身學習者和偶爾替《生命恩泉》寫作的作者。在每一個身份當中, 她努力為天主的愛和希望作見証。 她在多倫多擔任高中教師近二十年,擁有英語、學生讀寫能力、青年領袖活動、校牧組等經驗。 她是多倫多大學商業和英語學士,教育學士,亞省Athabasca大學綜合研究碩士,以及擁有多倫多大學Regis學院神學研究碩士證書。她對於成為《生命恩泉》寫作團隊的一份子, 深感榮幸。 Susanna has a deep conviction that faith needs to be manifested in daily life, particularly, in one’s encounters with others as well as amidst dilemmas, choices, and challenges. She strives to be a living sign of God’s love and hope as a daughter, sister, friend, aunt, wife, teacher, chaplain, life-long learner, and occasional writer for FLL. She has been a high school teacher in Toronto for almost 20 years, with experiences in English and literacy, youth leadership initiatives, the Chaplaincy Team, to mention a few. She has a B. Comm, B.A. in English, and a B. Education from University of Toronto, an M.A. in Integrated Studies from Athabasca University, and a Graduate Certificate of Theological Studies from Regis College, U of T. She is humbled by the opportunity to be part of the FLL Writing Team.


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