2nd Sunday of Advent
ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST, A MODEL OF PREPARING FOR THE COMING OF CHRIST.
Dear brethren in Christ, today’s Sunday liturgy presents to us St. John the Baptist, as a model of for us to live the Advent season.
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said: “A voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths (Mt 3: 1-2).’”
- The above words were taken from today’s Gospel (Mt 3:1-12) wherein we see how the saint underlines the importance of penance, interior conversion and purification of the soul, and the struggle to rectify our style of life, as necessary predispositions not only to receive the grace of faith in Jesus, but also elements which have to be present during this Advent season, as preparation for Christmas and for the Second Coming of Christ.
- But one may ask: “What is Penance?” In his Apostolic Exhortation, Reconciliatio et poenitentia, 4, St. John Paul II, wrote:
“Penance means changing one’s life in harmony with the change of heart, and in this sense doing penance is completed by bringing forth fruits worthy of penance: It is one’s whole existence…directed toward a continuous striving for what is better… [It] is something authentic and effective only if it is translated into deeds and acts of penance,…,that is to say, the concrete daily effort of a person, supported by God [to] lose his or her own life for Christ as the only means of gaining it; an effort to put off the old man and put on the new; an effort to overcome in oneself what is of the flesh in order that what is spiritual may prevail; a continual effort to rise from the things of here below to the things of above, where Christ is. Penance is therefore a CONVERSION that PASSES FROM THE HEART TO DEEDS and then to the CHRISTIAN’S WHOLE LIFE.”
- Such effort and conversion to live Christ’s life will not be unnoticed by God for in the end, we will all be judged “according to our deeds (Rev 20:12)” during the Last Judgment described to us by Isaiah in the 1st reading, when Our Lord Jesus Christ
“Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide, but he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked (Isaiah 11:1-10).”
- Furthermore, the prophet also presents to us the lasting harmony and justice which will prevail when God creates the “new heavens and new earth”, consequences of the Second Coming of Christ:
“Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips. Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them. The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest; the lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall play by the cobra’s den, and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair. There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord, as water covers the sea. On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.”
Dear brethren in Christ, let us bring to our personal prayer as to how we would carry out God’s invitation for interior conversion and penance.
- One way of doing so would be to love the Sacrament of Reconciliation and to receive it in a frequent manner for there we receive not only God’s mercy and pardon, but also the grace we need in order to come out victorious in our daily struggles to conform our life to that of Christ
- We could also take advantage of the little things of each day to live this spirit of penance in concrete deeds. St Josemaria wrote in Friends of God, n. 138, Penance is
“Penance is fulfilling exactly the timetable you have fixed for yourself, even though your body resists or your mind tries to avoid it by dreaming up useless fantasies. Penance is getting up on time and also not leaving for later, without any real reason, that particular job that you find harder or most difficult to do.
Penance is knowing how to reconcile your duties to God, to others and to yourself, by making demands on yourself so that you find enough time for each of your tasks. You are practising penance when you lovingly keep to your schedule of prayer, despite feeling worn out, listless or cold.
Penance means being very charitable at all times towards those around you, starting with the members of your own family. It is to be full of tenderness and kindness towards the suffering, the sick and the infirm. It is to give patient answers to people who are boring and annoying. It means interrupting our work or changing our plans, when circumstances make this necessary, above all when the just and rightful needs of others are involved.
Penance consists in putting up good-humouredly with the thousand and one little pinpricks of each day; in not abandoning your job, although you have momentarily lost the enthusiasm with which you started it; in eating gladly whatever is served, without being fussy.
For parents and, in general, for those whose work involves supervision or teaching, penance is to correct whenever it is necessary. This should be done bearing in mind the type of fault committed and the situation of the person who needs to be so helped, not letting oneself be swayed by subjective viewpoints, which are often cowardly and sentimental.”
Let us ask God so that we may have the proper dispositions as St. John the Baptist had in preparing ourselves for Christmas and for the Second Coming of Christ by accepting God’s invitation for penance and interior conversion, manifested in concrete deeds of our daily life, done out of love for God.
Mary, Mother Immaculate, pray for us!
Fr. Rolly Arjonillo, priest of Opus Dei, Catholics striving for holiness, with the help of God’s grace. Kindly do us a favor by liking our FB page so we could reach and help more people. Thanks and God bless!
PHOTO CREDIT: Bartolome Esteban Murillo, La Virgen y el Niño Jesus con Santa Ana y San Juan Bautista (Museo de Bellas Artes, Sevilla), photo mine.