December 7, 2018

Second Sunday of Advent / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Baruch, the source of the first reading for Mass this weekend, is relatively brief, only five chapters. It also is among the books called by Protestants scholars the Apocrypha, by Catholics the Deutero-Canonical. As such, it is not included in Protestant Bibles.

It is not found in Jewish translations of the Scriptures. Indeed, while some of the ancient Fathers of the Church knew about Baruch and quoted it, St. Jerome did not include it in his Latin translation of the Bible, which is known as the Vulgate.

For Catholics, however, most important is the fact that the Church officially long ago recognized it as divinely inspired.

Regardless, when Baruch was written, great problems beset God’s people, not a rare circumstance. This book encouraged those who were suffering, reassuring them that God would not forsake them, and that his justice and mercy would prevail in the end.

Always, in good times or bad, some people were lukewarm in their religious devotion. Baruch calls the indifferent to piety.

St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians furnishes the next reading. The Apostle sent the letter to the Christians of Philippi, an important city in the ancient Roman Empire, urging the Philippians loyal to the Lord to be steadfast in their faith, come what may, until his second coming.

As often predicted elsewhere in the New Testament, this reading says that one day, but at a time unknown, Jesus definitely will come again in triumph and judgment. Evil finally will be defeated, once and for all.

St. Luke’s Gospel is the source of the last reading.

This reading centers upon Jesus, although highly visible in the reading is John the Baptist. Carefully constructed, the Gospel presents the coming of Jesus as uniquely important in the course of human affairs.

The Lord’s coming was so important, in fact, that preceding this coming was John the Baptist’s proclamation of God’s majesty and of human responsibility before and to God.

John was a prophet and a holy man. Ancient Jews thought that holiness gave people special wisdom. God used such people to reveal truth to other humans. Through John, God was revealing the person and mission of Christ.

Also, to emphasize the importance of the Lord’s coming, this Gospel passage takes pains in setting the presence of John, and the coming of Christ, at an exact moment in history, namely by stating that it all occurred when Tiberius was emperor, Pilate his governor in Palestine, and so on.

Jesus came in human time and space.

He came, in God’s mercy, as fulfilling the hopes of the prophets of old who had yearned for the Redeemer who would destroy evil and death. When this Messiah would come, all would be made right. The rough ways for people would be made smooth. Now, as John the Baptist declared, with such conviction, the Redeemer at last had come.

Reflection

Times were bad for the Jews when Baruch was written. When Philippians and the Gospel of Luke were written, times were hard for Christians.

On this Second Sunday of Advent, the Church speaks to us. Times are hard. Bloodshed has come to be common. So has addiction. Today’s drift from God is spinning a deadly web. Sin still cripples us and dooms us to eternal death.

All will be right, joy and peace will prevail, however, if we admit Jesus into our lives. He will come to us, but we must invite him into our lives sincerely. With the help of his grace, we can reform ourselves, renounce sin and give ourselves totally to God. The call of John the Baptist is spoken to us. †

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