The Second Sunday of Advent
9 December 2012
St. Joseph’s Church, 8.30am.
My dear friends,
The word wilderness is one that appears frequently in the bible. It can be geographical, in describing a particular type of place, or it can be more than geographical. Most of us are familiar with wilderness moments, moments when we were close to losing hope and giving in to despair. It may have been family relationships that were poisoned by tension and bitterness. It may have been a time when everything was going wrong at work. We may have been victims of crime and our efforts at prayer may have felt as dry as the desert air. The wilderness is a bleak and arid place, where nothing seems to grow. It was a very familiar place to the people of Israel.
In the first reading of today’s Mass, Baruch told the people of Israel that a time was coming when “the forests and every fragrant tree will provide shade for Israel,” and that “God will guide Israel in joy by the light of his glory, with his mercy and integrity for escort,”
In the second reading, Paul is writing to the Philippians, and after telling them how much he missed them, he says “my prayer is that your love for each other may increase more and more, and never stop improving your knowledge and deepening your perception, so that you can always recognise what is best.”
In the Gospel reading, Luke tells us of John the Baptist and how he went through the whole Jordan district proclaiming a baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sins, and telling people, “winding ways will be straightened and rough roads made smooth. And all mankind shall see the salvation of God.”
These are encouraging words, words of hope and healing. The resilience of the human spirit can be as strong as steel, and words of encouragement can lift flagging shoulders. When our self-esteem has been damaged, the truth can have the effect of paralysing us rather than giving us the energy we need to make the necessary changes. What the changes would involve might dishearten us. We may feel that we are not ready for them, or we may think that we are too long in the tooth to face them.
In rearing our children, many experts in this area tell us that if we focus only on what they are doing wrong rather than on what they do right, we are making a mistake. They advise that it is better to teach children rather than correct them. Parents who overuse the chisel in chipping away at shaping their children may damage their confidence whereas those who balance this by building up and offering positive comments are more likely to create a strong foundation of love on which to build. A short story writer called Clarence Kelland wrote, “My father didn’t tell me how to live, he lived and let me watch him do it.”
The readings of today’s Mass appear to be based on the principle that people are more likely to change for the better when they are encouraged to see the best in themselves. We need help and encouragement to leave behind ways that have become destructive. We need help in learning to see things differently and in recognising the good that will be done to others in the process. We need time to reflect. We need faith in ourselves, in the future and faith in the power of God to enable us to see it through. Paul says to us, “I am quite certain that the one who began this good work in you will see that it is finished when the day of Christ Jesus comes.”
When we listen to the Word of God in the story of creation, as it is presented in the Book of Genesis, we hear that at the end of each day God looked at what he had created and saw that it was good. He should never lose sight of this teaching. What God created in giving us this universe, and in giving life to men and woman, – what God created was good. If our vision of this goodness has been darkened, the season of Advent offers us the hope that the arrival of a child has remedied this and restored to us the light if we are disposed to accept it. John the Baptist gave us the combination lock – repent and accept forgiveness for our sins.
+Liam S. MacDaid
9 December 2012