Second Sunday of Advent

“Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’

 

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

Prayer for a Happy Death

O God, great and omnipotent judge of the living and the dead, we are to appear before you after this short life to render an account of our works. Give us the grace to prepare for our last hour by a devout and holy life, and protect us against a sudden and unprovided death. Let us remember our frailty and mortality, that we may always live in the ways of your commandments. Teach us to “watch and pray” (Lk 21:36), that when your summons comes for our departure from this world, we may go forth to meet you, experience a merciful judgment, and rejoice in everlasting happiness. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

COLLECT

Almighty and merciful God,

Almighty and merciful God,

may no earthly undertaking hinder those

who set out in haste to meet your Son,

but may our learning of heavenly wisdom

gain us admittance to his company.

Who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

 

READING I

Bar 5:1-9

Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery;

put on the splendor of glory from God forever:

wrapped in the cloak of justice from God,

bear on your head the mitre

that displays the glory of the eternal name.

For God will show all the earth your splendor:

you will be named by God forever

the peace of justice, the glory of God’s worship.

Up, Jerusalem! stand upon the heights;

look to the east and see your children

gathered from the east and the west

at the word of the Holy One,

rejoicing that they are remembered by God.

Led away on foot by their enemies they left you:

but God will bring them back to you

borne aloft in glory as on royal thrones.

For God has commanded

that every lofty mountain be made low,

and that the age-old depths and gorges

be filled to level ground,

that Israel may advance secure in the glory of God.

The forests and every fragrant kind of tree

have overshadowed Israel at God’s command;

for God is leading Israel in joy

by the light of his glory,

with his mercy and justice for company.

The word of the Lord.

 

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6

The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.

When the LORD brought back the captives of Zion,

we were like men dreaming.

Then our mouth was filled with laughter,

and our tongue with rejoicing.

The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.

Then they said among the nations,

“The LORD has done great things for them.”

The LORD has done great things for us;

we are glad indeed.

The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.

Restore our fortunes, O LORD,

like the torrents in the southern desert.

Those who sow in tears

shall reap rejoicing.

The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.

Although they go forth weeping,

carrying the seed to be sown,

They shall come back rejoicing,

carrying their sheaves.

The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.

 

APPLICATION

To help us prepare for the commemoration of Christ’s coming on earth at Christmas the Church has chosen these words of the Old Testament which spoke of the new Jerusalem, the new kingdom which the Messiah would set up when he came. As the Jews of old looked forward with hope to that day, we now should look back to it with joy and especially with thanksgiving. God created us, he gave us great gifts, we abused these gifts to insult him, yet he not only was willing to forgive us but he went to the length of sending his divine son to become like one of us, to live with us and die for us. Only God could have such love, such mercy, such a forgiving spirit.

It is only by our actions that we can show the gratitude we owe to him and the actions he expects are described in the prophecy you have heard read, justice and true worship. We are dedicated to God by our baptism–the words “holy to God” were written on our foreheads by the water and holy oil of baptism. Let us try to live up to this holy dedication by our justice and fidelity to God and to our neighbor. This is true worship of God. We were remembered by him when he gave us our Christian vocation–sinners though we were. Let us never forget him, who not only brought us back from exile, but has made us sons and heirs of his eternal kingdom. “What can I render to God for all he has given me?” the psalmist asked. My answer is very little indeed but he is willing to accept that little, will I refuse even that little?

 

READING II

Phil 1:4-6, 8-11

Brothers and sisters:

I pray always with joy in my every prayer for all of you,

because of your partnership for the gospel

from the first day until now.

I am confident of this,

that the one who began a good work in you

will continue to complete it

until the day of Christ Jesus.

God is my witness,

how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

And this is my prayer:

that your love may increase ever more and more

in knowledge and every kind of perception,

to discern what is of value,

so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,

filled with the fruit of righteousness

that comes through Jesus Christ

for the glory and praise of God.

The word of the Lord.

 

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 2632 Christian petition is centered on the desire and search for the Kingdom to come, in keeping with the teaching of Christ.1 There is a hierarchy in these petitions: we pray first for the Kingdom, then for what is necessary to welcome it and cooperate with its coming. This collaboration with the mission of Christ and the Holy Spirit, which is now that of the Church, is the object of the prayer of the apostolic community.2 It is the prayer of Paul, the apostle par excellence, which reveals to us how the divine solicitude for all the churches ought to inspire Christian prayer.3 By prayer every baptized person works for the coming of the Kingdom.

CCC 2636 The first Christian communities lived this form of fellowship intensely.4 Thus the Apostle Paul gives them a share in his ministry of preaching the Gospel5 but also intercedes for them.6 The intercession of Christians recognizes no boundaries: “for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions,” for persecutors, for the salvation of those who reject the Gospel.7

1 Cf. Mt 6:10, 33; Lk 11:2,13.

2 Cf. Acts 6:6; 13:3.

3 Cf. Rom 10:1; Eph 1:16-23; Phil 1911; Col 1:3-6; 4:3-4, 12.

4 Cf. Acts 12:5; 20:36; 21:5; 2 Cor 9:14.

5 Cf. Eph 6:18-20; Col 4:3-4; 1 Thess 5:25.

6 Cf. 2 Thess 1:11; Col 1:3; Phil 1:3-4.

7 2 Tim 2:1; cf. Rom 12:14; 10:1.

 

APPLICATION

The “day of Christ,” the day of the parousia or of his coming in glory to judge the whole world, was anxiously looked for in the early Church. Many of the first generation Christians thought it would come in their life-time. Christ did not reveal when his Second Coming would be, but be did tell us to be always ready. This much we know, each one of us will appear before him to be judged at the moment of our death and that moment will decide for us how his Second Coming will affect us. And the decision, granted God’s grace, is up to each one of us.

We have all scored points for or against ourselves already, but owing to the infinite mercy of God we have the means of erasing the guilty marks and so we can put ourselves in readiness at a moment’s notice. But will we get the moment’s notice? There have been death-bed conversions, but foolish indeed is the man who would presume such a grace. Of the hundreds of thousands who die each day less than one in a thousand believes he is about to die. Am I going to be the exception?

Therefore, to make sure of a happy death, that is, of a successful judgment, there is but one guarantee and it is to lead a successful, a true, Christian life. God has been so good to us, he has created us, he has redeemed us, be has prepared a place in heaven for us and has given us all the necessary means of reaching that place, could we be so thankless, so mean to him and so neglectful of our own greatest good, as not to use those means and make sure of the eternal happiness be has planned for us?

Today is the opportune, the right moment, to answer this question and to answer it sensibly–if I do not, nobody else, not even God himself, can answer it for me.

 

GOSPEL

Lk 3:1-6

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,

when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea,

and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee,

and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region

of Ituraea and Trachonitis,

and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene,

during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas,

the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.

John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan,

proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,

as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:

A voice of one crying out in the desert:

“Prepare the way of the Lord,

make straight his paths.

Every valley shall be filled

and every mountain and hill shall be made low.

The winding roads shall be made straight,

and the rough ways made smooth,

and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

 

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC – 535 Jesus’ public life begins with his baptism by John in the Jordan.1 John preaches “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”.2 A crowd of sinners3 – tax collectors and soldiers, Pharisees and Sadducees, and prostitutes- come to be baptized by him. “Then Jesus appears.” The Baptist hesitates, but Jesus insists and receives baptism. Then the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, comes upon Jesus and a voice from heaven proclaims, “This is my beloved Son.”4 This is the manifestation (“Epiphany”) of Jesus as Messiah of Israel and Son of God.

1 Cf. Lk 3:23; Acts 1:22.
2 lK 3:3.
3 Cf. Lk 3:10-14; Mt 3:7; 21:32.
4 Mt 3:13-17.

 

APPLICATION

The preaching of John the Baptist, quoting Isaiah, which echoed and re-echoed around the Jordan valley nearly two thousand years ago, should ring in our ears today too. We are preparing for the coming of Christ at Christmas, and the prophet tells us how we should prepare ourselves if the welcome we give our Savior is to be sincere and true. Even the best and the holiest amongst us will have to admit that our paths–our dealings with God–over the past twelve months have been far from straight and smooth.

How much time have we given to God and the things of God since this time last year? How far has God and our Christian religion influenced our lives, our work, our recreation, since last Christmas? Have we thanked God even once a day during the past year for the marvelous gifts he has given us–the gift of life with the promise and the means of earning an eternal life? Have we rather begrudged the paltry half-hour on Sunday out of the 168 hours in each week?

Alas, looking back over the past year, most, if not all of us, will have to feel ashamed of our meanness, our ingratitude towards the good God, to whom we owe everything we have.

However, Christmas is the commemoration of that greatest gift of his mercy which God bestowed on this world, and if we but humbly beat our breasts and admit our meanness–if we lower the mountains of selfish pride and fill up the valleys of laziness and forgetfulness by turning to him with hearts full of gratitude and repentance, there will be mercy in abundance even for the greatest sinner amongst us. Christ will come to us with the “salvation of God” and we can confidently hope to live the coming year as we should, as grateful children of our loving Father in heaven.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission of Franciscan Press.

 

BENEDICTUS

John the Baptist in Advent

Let us gaze on John the Baptist. Challenging and active he stands before us, a “type” of the manly vocation. In harsh terms he demands metanoia, a radical transformation of attitudes. Those who would be Christians must be “transformed” ever again. Our natural disposition, indeed, finds us always ready to assert ourselves to pay like with like, to put ourselves at the center. Those who want to find God need, again and again, that inner conversion, that new direction. And this applies also to the total outlook on life. Day by day we encounter the world of visible things. It assaults us through billboards, broadcasts, traffic, and all the activities of daily life, to such an enormous extent that we are tempted to assume there is nothing else but this. Yet the truth is that what is invisible is greater and much more valuable than anything visible. One single soul, in Pascal’s beautiful words, is worth more than the entire visible universe. But in order to have a living awareness of this, we need conversion, we need to turn around inside, as it were, to overcome the illusion of what is visible, and to develop the feeling, the ears and the eyes, for what is invisible. This has to be more important than anything that bombards us day after day with such exaggerated urgency. Metanoeite: change your attitude, so that God may dwell in you and, through you, in the world. John himself was not spared this painful process of change, of turning around.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

 

CLOSING PRAYER

Advent Prayer

Father, in the wilderness of the Jordan you sent a messenger to prepare people’s hearts for the coming of your Son. Help me to hear his words and repent of my sins, so that I may clearly see the way to walk, the truth to speak, and the life to live for Him, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

ADVENT WREATH PRAYER

Week Two

Let us pray.

O Lord, stir up our hearts that we may prepare for Thy only begotton Son,

that through His coming we may be made worthy to serve Thee with pure souls.

Through the same Christ our Lord.

Amen.

“Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’

 

 

 

 

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About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A Benedictine oblate's weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
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