The readings today are full or at least allude to the message of renewal. We Catholics should not be afraid of the word “renewal”. In opening the Second Vatican Council, Pope Saint John XXIII commented: “throw open the doors of the Church and let the fresh air of the Spirit blow through.” But until now there seems to be an almost a phobia when the Church is wading in the waters of renewal. Some fear and are dismayed over issues of “contamination” in the face of liturgical “enculturation”. Some easily call others in the Church as heretics when they talk to and pray with non-Catholics or even to non-Christians. There seems to be a fundamental fear that the Church will soil her bridal gown to these commitment of renewal and spiritual freshness because of some conservatives’ thought that we “are just enough”.
The danger of the attitude of navel-gazing, “we-are-enough” attitude is rather the destructive tool in the Church. This second Sunday of Advent, the readings are exhortations of renewal. Isaiah in the first reading presents God as a comforting Father to His people: He announces the end of slavery and freedom. The return from exile is to start afresh their relationship to God by repairing what was lost along the process of captivity. The clarion call of Advent usually associated to the call of Saint John the Baptist: “Prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight His paths” is contextualized and relocated in its original call — Isaiah calls to the people to repair the long lost relationship with God. In essence: renew yourself in God for He offers the opportunity for renewal. At the outset of Isaiah’s reading today, he presents God ever available at a high mountain. Then he exhorts the people to come up to the mountain and to not fear in approaching Him. We are not enough for ourselves. We need God’s ever renewing grace. Advent is a time of coming up the mountain and meeting our God. It is time to straighten ourselves by using the crook of might and mercy of our Shepherd who will love His ewes with care.
On the other hand, some who settle for less and in mediocrity in the ecclesial community, lives in an attitude of “mañana” habit or procrastination. “Well” they would always say “why worry when God’s time has not yet come?” Renewal should not be delayed because we feel anyway Christ is also delaying us: the Messianic delaying tactics! Is it not supposedly we should prepare all the more? Why not make the imperative a daily habit to renew? The call to renewal of life is neither occasional nor not ceremonial. We cannot schedule our lives for we do not know the certainty of our death’s hour. So say a famous Latin proverb: Dum spiro, spero — as long a I breathe, I hope. Our death is a definitive transition of no return, when we will make our remorse in eternity without the aid of redemption. In this life, we are given the chance to respond. As Saint Peter reminds us in the second reading: God is patient with us, waiting us in this life to renew not wishing us to perish but to come to repentance.
Not tomorrow and not later than that! This is the imperative of renewal. Let us not be afraid to step up to the grace of God. The person of Saint John the Baptist today dares us to do so. In the combined message crafted by Mark the Evangelist, he introduces us to the imperative of the Gospel of Jesus the Messiah and the penetrating message along with it the Baptist’s cry: “Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths’” (Mk. 1:2). Make this Advent season our attitude of listening to the divine imperative — the demand of justice of God should be responded to. As He may come in the form of purifying fire’s justice (as St. Peter depicts), hear the refreshing psalms preference: “Justice and peace shall kiss” (cf. Ps. 85.11). Renewal can be very bitter and arduous way, but God’s justice produces a sweet kiss with peace. | Fr. Ric Anthony A. Reyes, OSA