Celebrate Sunday Mass - 12.10.23

DECEMBER 10, 2023 -- The Second Sunday of Advent

Photo by KaLisa Veer on Unsplash

Photo by KaLisa Veer on Unsplash

12/10/2023 (2 months ago)

By Deacon Keith Fournier

My friends, brothers, and sisters in the Lord

The first reading for this second Sunday of Advent is taken from the Prophet Isaiah. The Lord, speaking through His prophet, cries out "In the desert, prepare the way for the Lord." These very words would be spoken, centuries later, through John the Baptizer. This is a beautiful Messianic prophecy. We will hear many of these prophecies from the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament, as we journey through this season of preparation called Advent.As Christians, we read the Hebrew Scriptures through the lens of what is called the "Paschal Mystery" - the saving birth, life, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is the promised Messiah, in and through whom all these prophetic promises are fulfilled. The "New Jerusalem" is His mystical Body, the Church, in whom people from every Nation will be gathered.

And now, we who follow Him as Savior and Lord are invited to live our lives in, with and for Him. To continually ask Him to come and to always await His return, His Second and Final coming. In our second reading, from the Second letter of St Peter, we heard about the final coming of the Lord. The early Christians who received his letters, and all of us, are admonished to look for His final coming and to expect it. Do we? We are to somehow "hasten" it by the way we live our lives as His followers.

This is what Advent is all about. Preparing for the Coming(s) of the Lord and helping others to do the same.

In the Gospel for this Sunday we heard the beginning of the Gospel of St. Mark. He does not offer a genealogy leading to the birth of Jesus, as does St Matthew. Rather, he starts out with the passage from Isaiah we heard in our first reading. He proclaims that John the Baptizer fulfills that ancient prophecy. John the Baptizer is the voice. So does St Luke in his Gospel. John the Baptizer is a key person throughout Advent.

Our image of John is as the austere ascetic, the odd fellow who lived in the desert eating a strange diet and thundering to Israel about repentance. We forget the joy that was associated with his birth and the happiness which accompanied his prophetic life and vocation. Because He focused on Jesus, he experienced true freedom and happiness. He is held out to us as an example in Advent to show us how we can as well. John said YES - to who He was and who he was called to become. In that he is an example for each one of us to reflect on during this season.

When Our Lady went to visit her kinswoman Elizabeth - she was carrying the Incarnate Word, Jesus, and Elizabeth was carrying John - the Gospel tells us:

"When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said: "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled." And Mary said: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior." (Luke 1: 41-47)

Living in his mother's womb, this last Prophet of the Old Testament and First Prophet of the New responded to the arrival of Jesus the Savior with a dance of Joy. St. John records John the Baptizer explaining the reason for his joy, "The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease." (John 1:29 - 30) He was a man of Joy because he was a man of true humility!

John understood that life wasn't all about him. He emptied himself willingly. His humility opened a space within him for true joy to take root and set him free! John is a sign of contradiction for an age drunk on self-worship and lost in narcissistic self-absorption. He points to the path of true freedom, living a lifestyle of self-emptying. These are the words of the Baptizer, "He (Jesus) must increase and I must decrease". This is the attitude, the disposition, the way of life which can lead each of us into to true freedom. This is the path to becoming the new creation we are called to become by living "in Christ". (2 Cor. 5:17)

John is a man to be imitated by everyone of us during Advent. We can learn from him how to live our own lives as joyful penitents, ever aware of our utter dependency on God's grace at every moment. It is sin which leads us into slavery and takes away our joy. Only by being freed from its entanglements can we become truly happy and free. (See, Romans 6: 6, 7 and Gal. 5:1) John points to Jesus in his birth, his life and his martyr's death.We do not hear enough of a fundamental truth of the Christian faith; the Lord desires our human flourishing and happiness. He wants us to be free. The Apostle Paul proclaimed to the Galatians "...It was for freedom that Christ set us free." (Gal 5:1) He invites us to choose Him over our own selfish pursuits to find happiness and freedom. Sin fractured our freedom, and it is the wood of the Cross which becomes the splint which can restore it.

We speak of receiving the beatific vision when we finally stand in His presence and enter the fullness of communion. The word beatitude means happiness! Living in the Lord will make us happy; not only in the life to come but beginning now. Too often we associate repentance with wrong- headed self-hatred. To the contrary, for those who have been schooled in its lessons like John the Baptizer, the way of voluntary penitence and conversion becomes the path to freedom and happiness.

Saint John Paul II wrote frequently about human freedom. In one of his letters of instruction on the Christian family he wrote these insightful words: "History is not simply a fixed progression toward what is better - but rather, an event of freedom. Specifically, it is a struggle between freedoms that are in mutual conflict: a conflict between two loves - the love of God to the point of disregarding self and the love of self to the point of disregarding God." (Pope St John Paul II, Christian Family in the Modern World, n. 6)

This "conflict between two loves", this "event of freedom", is played out daily for each one of us. The recurring questions of Eden echo in our personal histories. How will we exercise our "freedom"? At which tree will we make "our" choices? Will it be the tree of disobedience, where the first Adam chose against God's invitation to a communion of love, or the tree on Golgotha's hill where the one who is called "the second Adam", the Son of God, Jesus Christ, brought heaven to earth when He stretched out His arms to embrace all men and women, bearing the consequences of all their wrong choices and setting them free from the law of sin and death? (Romans 8:2)

Let me conclude with some words concerning true freedom from the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one's own responsibility. By free will one shapes one's own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude.

As long as freedom has not bound itself definitively to its ultimate good which is God, there is the possibility of choosing between good and evil, and thus of growing in perfection or of failing and sinning. This freedom characterizes properly human acts. It is the basis of praise or blame, merit or reproach. The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to "the slavery of sin." (CCC 1731 - 1733).

The choice for true freedom is ours to make. Advent is a good time to make it afresh. The Lord Jesus offers it to us and makes it possible. The promise from the Gospel of John invites us, "...so if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:26) John the Baptizer shows us the way to find happiness and true Freedom. Let us follow his example during our Advent of preparation. The path to finding that freedom is to empty ourselves - of ourselves - and be filled with the Lord Jesus. John the Baptizer paves the path and shows us the way to freedom.

Have a Blessed Lords Day, and a wonderful Advent
Deacon Keith Fournier
Deacon Keith Fournier, JD, MTS, MPhil
Dean of Catholic Online School

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