Sunday, 6 December 2020 : Second Sunday of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we mark the Second Sunday of Advent, and therefore we continue to journey further and deeper through the mysteries of Advent, and our time of preparation and expectation for the joy of Christmas to come. On this Second Sunday of Advent, the theme that we focus on is ‘Peace’, out of the four themes that began with ‘Hope’ last week, and then to be followed with ‘Joy’ next Sunday and ‘Love’ on the last Sunday of Advent.

As we listened to the readings from the Scripture we are constantly being reminded of the Lord’s coming, of His coming as the Saviour to deliver all of His people from their troubles. That is why this season of Advent we are always reminded of the need to focus our attentions on the Lord and reorientate ourselves spiritually and mentally that the Lord will be the centre of our lives. Too many of us have been distracted from our mission and calling in life as Christians, tempted and steered away by our many concerns and desires in the world.

In our first reading from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard again as we have been for the past few days since the first week of Advent, of the Lord’s faithful promises to His people which reminded all of them that God will triumph in the end, and He will lead all of His faithful people out of their suffering and wretched state. He promised them salvation and the coming of the Saviour that would herald the dawn of a new time and age, the glorious reign of God.

This prophecy was significant in meaning and importance because it was made at the time when the fortunes of the people of God was among its lowest, when they were beset by troubles and had been brought low by many sufferings and humiliations. The northern kingdom of Israel, constituting most of the ten tribes of Israel besides the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, has just been destroyed by the Assyrians, and then their populations brought into exile and the lands wasted and destroyed.

And the same Assyrians came to Judah and Jerusalem where Isaiah had prophesied and ministered in, in a mighty army led by their king Sennacherib with the intention of conquering and destroying the city and the kingdom as they had done with the northern kingdom. Indeed, if we read the Book of Kings and the Book of Chronicles, we can see just how the history of the people of God at that time was rife with conflicts, wars and much destruction all over.

Kingdoms fought against each other, kings struggled against other kings and their rivals, and it was often the people who suffered through all those strife, warfare and conflicts. When kings of Israel and Judah fought against each other for their territories and for prestige, it was the people who bore the brunt of the fighting and the loss, while the kings feasted in their luxurious life, often ignorant of the plight of those who were suffering and poor.

King Sennacherib of Assyria was no different, as he laid siege to Jerusalem and other cities in Judah, bringing plenty of destruction to the whole kingdom of Judah. He led the Assyrian armies in conquering many cities and countries, in causing lots of destruction and harm to people and properties, untold suffering to so many people. Why has king Sennacherib done so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because he sought power, glory and fame, wealth and worldly satisfaction that came from such actions.

And thus was how many wars and conflict had been fought, over the greed and desires of man for power, for wealth and worldly glory and fame. And as they did so, they had little regards for other people, but for themselves. Like king Sennacherib, he boasted that no king, ruler or kingdom as well as their gods were able to stand against his power and might, and he blasphemed against God by saying that he would bring the same ruin to the people of God and destroy the Temple of God.

The pride, arrogance, ego and greed of king Sennacherib led to his downfall, as God struck him and his army down. Through His Angels, God destroyed the armies of the Assyrians and drove them back to their homeland in utter and complete shame. Sennacherib himself was murdered by his own two sons who perhaps craved and desired power and other glories. It was indeed quite often that within the ruling families and those in power to struggle and end up in conflict among themselves.

And that was how things had gone in the past throughout the history of mankind, in all nations and peoples. Conflicts, wars and disagreements had often happened because of the conflicting interests, desires and ego of different parties involved. Through all of that, people suffer, especially those who are underprivileged, poor and weak, those who have been easily exploited and taken advantage of by the rich and the powerful.

But if we think that it is only the poor and the less privileged that suffer, then we are wrong. Do you realise that actually even the rich and powerful also suffer? Take for example the case of king Sennacherib mentioned earlier. He was murdered by his own sons likely because of conflict of power and their desires to carve up his kingdom for themselves.

As Sennacherib’s demise showed us, the rich and powerful are in fact even less secure and suffer more because they often fight among themselves and contend with each other for the power and glory, wealth and riches of the world. And the more that man has, the more we will be tempted to desire for even more of what we have already possessed and attained. That is why, those who have more often are also the least peaceful in mind.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now having heard of all these, we are all reminded that in this world, we have often been deluded by our worldly desires and by the many temptations of false pleasures, glory and corruptions of the world. And because of these conflicting and unbridled desires and wants, we end up causing sufferings on each other, and making things difficult for one another.

How do we then find peace, brothers and sisters in Christ? This is where we ought to look towards Christ, the Prince of Peace. The One Whose coming we celebrate this Christmas and which we prepare for this season of Advent is the One Who will bring true peace and harmony into this world. And indeed, He came bearing His truth into the world, and He was preceded by none other than St. John the Baptist, who in our Gospel passage today spoke of the Lord’s coming.

And what St. John the Baptist said to the people as we heard it in our Gospel passage today is a call to repentance, a cry out for all the sinful people of God to seek God’s forgiveness, to change their hearts and their ways of life, and reorientate themselves and their lives back towards the Lord, with Him as the centre and focus of their whole attention. And this is what the Lord then revealed in full through His coming.

St. John the Baptist helped to straighten the path for the Lord, and the Lord then showed how through Him, by following Him, His teachings and His ways, He will free them from their slavery, their bondage to sin and to all the chains of worldliness and all the temptations that had hindered us all these while and caused so much suffering for so many among us, be it rich or poor, powerful, mighty or weak. As long as we continue to indulge in our selfish desires, we will continue to be swayed by the forces of sin and evil, and we can never find true peace.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, during this season of Advent let us all therefore seek the Lord with renewed faith and hope, the hope in the peace that the Lord alone can give us. The Lord has shown His love and mercy to us, and through His compassion, He has shown us the path to true peace, harmony and true joy that we can find in Him and through Him alone. Are we willing to follow this path, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to commit ourselves to serve the Lord faithfully?

Today, let us all commit ourselves to the path of peace, by reorientating our lives towards the Lord, and not towards our foolish and selfish desires, our worldly pursuits of power, glory and wealth among many others. Brothers and sisters, let us all reject these temptations and strive to do our best to be faithful, to be righteous and just in our every actions and deeds, and to seek peace over violence, to be loving to one another rather than to put our own self-interests first. Let us all reflect the Lord’s examples, His hope, His peace and His love in our own lives, and in our actions.

Throughout this season of Advent, let us all renew our relationship with God by deepening our spiritual life, by spending more time with God in prayer, and by rethinking how we have lived our lives and even also how we prepare for Christmas. Is Christmas really about all the glamour, parties and the celebrations? Or is it rather to celebrate together as a community the joy of expecting the coming of the Lord and the coming of His reign of peace?

Let us all discern carefully how we are going to continue living our lives from now on, with faith. Let us all renew our devotion to God and make best use of this blessed time and season of Advent. May the Lord be our Guide and may He strengthen us always in our faith, as well as in our desire to love and serve Him, at all times. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 6 December 2020 : Second Sunday of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Mark 1 : 1-8

This is the beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in the book of Isaiah, the prophet, “I am sending My messenger ahead of You, to prepare Your way. Let the people hear the voice calling in the desert : Prepare the way of the Lord, level His paths.”

So John began to baptise in the desert; He preached a baptism of repentance, for the forgiveness of sins. All Judea and all the people from the city of Jerusalem went out to John to confess their sins, and to be baptised by him in the river Jordan. John was clothed in camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and honey.

He preached to the people, saying, “After me comes One Who is more powerful than I am; I have baptised you with water, but He will baptise you in the Holy Spirit.”

Sunday, 6 December 2020 : Second Sunday of Advent (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

2 Peter 3 : 8-14

Do not forget, beloved, that with the Lord, one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day. The Lord does not delay in fulfilling His promise, though some speak of delay; rather, He gives you time, because He does not want anyone to perish, but that all may come to conversion.

The Day of the Lord is to come like a thief. Then, the heavens will dissolve with a great noise; the elements will melt away by fire, and the earth, with all that is on it, will be burnt up. Since all things are to vanish, how holy and religious your way of life must be, as you wait for the day of God, and long for its coming, when the heavens will dissolve in fire, and the elements melt away in the heat.

We wait for a new heaven and a new earth, in which justice reigns, according to God’s promise. Therefore, beloved, as you wait in expectation of this, strive, that God may find you rooted in peace, without blemish or fault.

Sunday, 6 December 2020 : Second Sunday of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 84 : 9ab and 10, 11-12, 13-14

Would, that I hear God’s proclamation, that He promise peace to His people, His saints. Yet, His salvation is near to those who fear Him, and His glory will dwell in our land.

Love and faithfulness have met; righteousness and peace have embraced. Faithfulness will reach up from the earth while justice bends down from heaven.

YHVH will give what is good, and our land will yield its fruit. Justice will go before Him, and peace will follow along His path.

Sunday, 6 December 2020 : Second Sunday of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 40 : 1-5, 9-11

Be comforted, My people, be strengthened, says your God. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, proclaim to her that her time of bondage is at an end, that her guilt has been paid for, that from the hand of YHVH she has received double punishment for all her iniquity.

A voice cries, “In the wilderness prepare the way for YHVH. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley will be raised up; every mountain and hill will be laid low. The stumbling blocks shall become level and the rugged places smooth. The glory of YHVH will be revealed, and all mortals together will see it; for the mouth of YHVH has spoken.”

Go up onto the high mountain, messenger of Good News to Zion, lift up your voice with strength, fear not to cry aloud when you tell Jerusalem and announce to the cities of Judah : Here is your God! Here comes YHVH Sabaoth with might; His strong arm rules for Him; His reward is with Him, and here before Him is His booty. Like a shepherd He tends His flock : He gathers the lambs in His arms, He carries them in His bosom, gently leading those that are with young.