Lectionary Reflection: Second Sunday of Advent, Year B

Lectionary Readings: Is 49:1-5,9-11 / Ps 85 / 2Pt 3:8-14 / Mk 1:1-8

“But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.”

2Pt 3:13

It has been nearly a year since the COVID-19 virus emerged on the face on the face of the earth which has impacted the lives of millions of people. People dying, loved ones in hospitals, doctors and nurses working extra shifts, businesses on verge of closure, lockdown and red zones in place, people with lost jobs, Christmas festivities limited, and in many dioceses, Churches closed. Nearly a year later, the pandemic is still in place, perhaps even worse than where we were in March of this year. There are even worse “viruses” or rather, revelations that have been circulating throughout the world, including persecutions, racism, or right in the Catholic Church even more revelations on Clergy Abuse bring brought to light, including most recently, the McCarrick Report which stunned many Catholics. Some may have thought that this COVID-19 pandemic would have just lasted for a couple months. For some, racism and abuse scandals were things of the past. Yet, these dark things have continued to linger on, in one way or another, impacting the lives practically every person on earth. We may be asking ourselves, where is Advent and Christmas in all of this?

At a time when hope seems nothing but gone, this Advent Season should inspire us to hope. The first reading from the Advent-Prophet, Isaiah, reminds us, “say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!” Wow, how bold of a statement? “Here is your God!” Where is God in all of this? In these seemingly dark times of our world? Here’s the thing: sometimes we are too narrow-minded when it comes to recognizing God in our lives. God continues to work within His Church, even in this pandemic: the doctors and nurses working the front lines, the garbage collectors, the parish volunteers cleaning the pews of the parish Church, the teachers in schools… the list is countless. Yet, do we ever recognize that those are signs that shout aloud, “Here is your God!”

When Jesus walked on earth among the people of His time, people failed to recognize God’s presence, partially because this man named Jesus was someone so ordinary. Let us take a look again at the first reading today: we see within the reading, Isaiah paints for us such a “grandeur” image of the Saviour. He foreshadowed the coming of John the Baptist, the “voice” crying out in the desert, calling people to prepare the “way of the Lord.” (cf. Is 40:3) Along with that, Isaiah speaks of the Lord God that “comes with might,” who feeds His flock (Is 40:10-11). Did Jesus the Saviour who is true God and true man meet all of these prophecies of Isaiah? Most certainly He did, but probably in a way that not a lot of people expected. When reading the book of Isaiah, we must not forget the image of the suffering servant whom we later find in chapter 53, who is also an image of Jesus.

“Here is your God!” People from of old had different expectations of whom this “God” and “Saviour” was going to be. Even many people today have interesting perceptions of God. Yet, ultimately, God is not whom some may imagine: the God who sits up in a throne and would come down to earth in a throne. Rather, St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians gives a much different picture contrary to people’s expectations, “…though he [Jesus]was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. (Php 2:6-7) In other words, Jesus, shared our human nature in all things but sin.” (Eucharistic Prayer IV) The idea that God would become a human being was something unbelievable. However, that is our God – someone willing to take upon human flesh, live like any human being and take upon the pains and suffering of the world. The God that we have among us is one who is rich with “mercy and love,” as we acclaim in the psalm today.

“Here is your God!” We should be reminded of this every time we partake at the Table of the Word and Table of the Eucharist because it is through Word and Sacrament that we encounter the same Lord who came down to earth over 2000-years ago. Yet, having taken part in the Eucharist, nourished by the Word, the most vital part is the “missa,” our mission to go out and live that Eucharistic spirit, that spirit of humbly giving away of our very selves as “we wait for new heavens and a new earth.” (2Pt 3:13) We do not wait with nothing to do because God gave everyone gift to use in building the Kingdom of God here on earth. We must make God manifested in whatever that we do.

“The Lord is now slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.” (2Pt:9) These times may look like God is “slow” to hear us, but take a step back and look at the bigger picture of the great things that are happening. We see selfless people on all realms of life keeping society moving, keeping the Church alive. Though the social gatherings are temporarily on hold, public events temporarily suspended, even church pews are empty, we must ask ourselves, “How am I making God manifest in my daily life?”

There are some people who say, “I wish things can go back to normal,” but in reality, things will never go back to where they were before the pandemic, but maybe for the most part, for the better. I think that before the pandemic, we may have been too comfortable with our lives, may without our physical life, but likely also with our spiritual lives. These times prompt us to challenge ourselves even more. These times provide us a deeper Advent, to look at the mountains and hills that need to be made low (cf. Is 40:4) and so really “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,” (Mk 1:3, cf. Is 40:3) so that when Christmas comes this year, and more so when this time of pandemic comes to an end, we will not be lingering with our old selves, but rather, optimistically look at “new heavens and a new earth.” I honestly don’t know when this pandemic ends, but the readings today gives me an optimistic look of a post-pandemic world – I hope you think so too.

About Vincent Pham

Vincent is a humanities student of the University of Toronto’s Trinity College of the Faculty of Arts and Science. He hopes to pursue a double major in Ethics, Law and Society, and Philosophy.
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