Second Sunday of Advent – B

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“A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.”

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

Almighty and most merciful Father, we come to the season of Advent with the brokenness of the world in our eyes, the cries of our fellow human beings in our ears and our own sinfulness in our hearts.  We come to Bethlehem, as those who need a Savior.  We come to the light because the darkness has almost overwhelmed us, but the darkness can never overcome You.  We come to Bethlehem as invited guests; to see, to wonder and to be changed by the Child Messiah who is Jesus.  For his sake, and by his grace, forgive us our sins.  Give us hope and eternal life.  Help us to move through a worldly holiday of excess to a worshipful Advent and joyful Christmas. For Jesus’ sake, and through Jesus we pray.  Amen.

–Michael Spencer

COLLECT

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

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Is 40:1-5, 9-11

Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her
that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated;
indeed, she has received from the hand of the LORD
double for all her sins.

A voice cries out:
In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!
Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill shall be made low;
the rugged land shall be made a plain,
the rough country, a broad valley.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together;
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Go up on to a high mountain,
Zion, herald of glad tidings;
cry out at the top of your voice,
Jerusalem, herald of good news!
Fear not to cry out
and say to the cities of Judah:
Here is your God!
Here comes with power
the Lord GOD,
who rules by his strong arm;
here is his reward with him,
his recompense before him.
Like a shepherd he feeds his flock;
in his arms he gathers the lambs,
carrying them in his bosom,
and leading the ewes with care.

APPLICATION

The prophet’s words of comfort and consolation, addressed to his fellow exiles in Babylon, apply to Christians with infinitely greater force and meaning. The exiles were told that their liberation from enemy captivity was at hand. God would bring them back to Judea, to end their earthly days in freedom, but not without much struggle and strife. These same words have their real fulfillment in Christ. For us they have a meaning which goes beyond the confines of this world and of this limited life. The liberation from Babylon was but a shadow of the messianic redemption brought to all men by the incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ.

The knowledge that we are made brothers of Christ and heirs to heaven is surely the most consoling and comforting fact in every thinking man’s life. That we must all die and leave this world nobody can ever deny. Death is one of the acknowledged, stark realities of life. For the confirmed atheist and unbeliever (if such exists) death is the end of all our aspirations and hopes, we are nothing any more but a small mound of dust in a graveyard, or an urn of ashes kept for awhile on the family mantelpiece. What an inglorious end, what an unsatisfying finale to life’s drama! Man, with all his gifts of intelligence, ambitions and desires to live on, is worse off than the beast of the field or the tree in the forest. They have not intelligence and therefore no thoughts of a future. The cow knows of no tomorrow for it thinks not. Man, because of his highly developed faculties, cannot avoid thinking and planning for the future. What a sad existence, what a cruel fate man’s life would be if all were to end in the grave!

But there is comfort and consolation for those of us who accept God’s revelation and who know all that God has done through the incarnation of his Son. We were created not only by an intelligent Creator but by a loving Father. He intended an eternal life for us. This eternal life was earned for us by the incarnation. Our death on earth is not the end but the beginning. “Our life is not taken from us but is changed” to the new and glorious form of existence.

The “Lord God has come with might” indeed, and “has brought his reward with him.” He has raised us to the status of adopted sons and made us heirs to heaven—if we do our part on earth. And we are not alone in our efforts to merit this rich reward for ourselves; Christ has remained with us in his Church as our Good Shepherd and our divine helper. No sincere Christian need ever despair. Whatever be our temptations and weaknesses, if we call on our shepherd he will be there to help us.

Let us meditate and think often during these weeks of Advent on what the Christmas event means to us. Let us try to show our heartfelt gratitude to God who planned so lovingly our eternity, and to his divine Son who went to such lengths of humiliation and suffering in order to bring us to heaven. It must surely comfort and console us to be assured of an unending life of happiness after death, if only we use, as God wants us, the few short years given us here below. The reward and the recompense are exceeding great. To refuse to strive for that would be the act of a fool or a madman.

The Jerusalem of old rejoiced in the good tidings of the temporal liberation from exile. The new Jerusalem, the Church of Christ, can and should rejoice exceedingly in the good news given it by Christ, the gospel of eternal liberation and exaltation. This is what Christmas means for us. This is what we must ever strive for. Aided by our loving shepherd this is what we shall obtain when our days on earth come to an end.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 719 John the Baptist is “more than a prophet.”1 In him, the Holy Spirit concludes his speaking through the prophets. John completes the cycle of prophets begun by Elijah.2 He proclaims the imminence of the consolation of Israel; he is the “voice” of the Consoler who is coming.3 As the Spirit of truth will also do, John “came to bear witness to the light.”4 In John’s sight, the Spirit thus brings to completion the careful search of the prophets and fulfills the longing of the angels.5 “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God. .. Behold, the Lamb of God.”6

CCC 754 “The Church is, accordingly, a sheepfold, the sole and necessary gateway to which is Christ. It is also the flock of which God himself foretold that he would be the shepherd, and whose sheep, even though governed by human shepherds, are unfailingly nourished and led by Christ himself, the Good Shepherd and Prince of Shepherds, who gave his life for his sheep.”7

1 Lk 7:26.

2 Cf. Mt 11:13-14.

3 Jn 1:23; cf. Isa 40:1-3.

4 Jn 1:7; cf. Jn 15:26; 5:35.

5 Cf. 1 Pet 1:10-12.

6 Jn 1:33-36.

7 LG 6; cf. Jn 10:1-10; Isa 40:11; Ezek 34:11-31; Jn 10:11; 1 Pet 5:4; Jn 10:11-16.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 85:9-10-11-12, 13-14

Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD?for he proclaims peace to his people.
Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,
glory dwelling in our land.

Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.

Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and prepare the way of his steps.

Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

READING II

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Pt 3:8-14

Do not ignore this one fact, beloved,
that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years
and a thousand years like one day.
The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,”
but he is patient with you,
not wishing that any should perish
but that all should come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief,
and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar
and the elements will be dissolved by fire,
and the earth and everything done on it will be found out.

Since everything is to be dissolved in this way,
what sort of persons ought you to be,
conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion,
waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God,
because of which the heavens will be dissolved in flames
and the elements melted by fire.
But according to his promise
we await new heavens and a new earth
in which righteousness dwells.
Therefore, beloved, since you await these things,
be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 671 Though already present in his Church, Christ’s reign is nevertheless yet to be fulfilled “with power and great glory” by the King’s return to earth.1 This reign is still under attack by the evil powers, even though they have been defeated definitively by Christ’s Passover.2 Until everything is subject to him, “until there be realized new heavens and a new earth in which justice dwells, the pilgrim Church, in her sacraments and institutions, which belong to this present age, carries the mark of this world which will pass, and she herself takes her place among the creatures which groan and travail yet and await the revelation of the sons of God.”3 That is why Christians pray, above all in the Eucharist, to hasten Christ’s return by saying to him:4 Marana tha! “Our Lord, come!”5

CCC 677 The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection.6 The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God’s victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven.7 God’s triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgment after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world.8

CCC 972 After speaking of the Church, her origin, mission, and destiny, we can find no better way to conclude than by looking to Mary. In her we contemplate what the Church already is in her mystery on her own “pilgrimage of faith,” and what she will be in the homeland at the end of her journey. There, “in the glory of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity,” “in the communion of all the saints,”9 the Church is awaited by the one she venerates as Mother of her Lord and as her own mother.

In the meantime the Mother of Jesus, in the glory which she possesses in body and soul in heaven, is the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected in the world to come. Likewise she shines forth on earth until the day of the Lord shall come, a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim People of God.10

CCC 1037 God predestines no one to go to hell;11 for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want “any to perish, but all to come to repentance”:12

Father, accept this offering

from your whole family.

Grant us your peace in this life,

save us from final damnation,

and count us among those you have chosen.13

CCC 1042 At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness. After the universal judgment, the righteous will reign for ever with Christ, glorified in body and soul. The universe itself will be renewed:

The Church. .. will receive her perfection only in the glory of heaven, when will come the time of the renewal of all things. At that time, together with the human race, the universe itself, which is so closely related to man and which attains its destiny through him, will be perfectly re-established in Christ.14

CCC 1043 Sacred Scripture calls this mysterious renewal, which will transform humanity and the world, “new heavens and a new earth.”15 It will be the definitive realization of God’s plan to bring under a single head “all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth.”16

CCC 1405 There is no surer pledge or dearer sign of this great hope in the new heavens and new earth “in which righteousness dwells,”17 than the Eucharist. Every time this mystery is celebrated, “the work of our redemption is carried on” and we “break the one bread that provides the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live for ever in Jesus Christ.”18

CCC 2822 Our Father “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”19 He “is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish.”20 His commandment is “that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”21 This commandment summarizes all the others and expresses his entire will.

1 Lk 21:27; cf. Mt 25:31.

2 Cf. 2 Th 2:7.

3 LG 48 # 3; cf. 2 Pt 3:13; Rom 8:19-22; I Cor 15:28.

4 Cf. I Cor 11:26; 2 Pt 3:11-12.

5 1 Cor 16:22; Rev 22:17,20.

6 Cf. Rev 19:1-9.

7 Cf Rev 13:8; 20:7-10; 21:2-4.

8 Cf. Rev 20:12 2 Pt 3:12-13.

9 LG 69.

10 LG 68; Cf. 2 Pet 3 10.

11 Cf. Council of Orange II (529): DS 397; Council of Trent (1547):1567.

12 2 Pet 3:9.

13 Roman Missal, EP I (Roman Canon) 88.

14 LG 48; Cf. Acts 3:21; Eph 1:10; Col 1:20; 2 Pet 3:10-13.

15 2 Pet 3:13; Cf. Rev 21:1.

16 Eph 1:10.

17 2 Pet 3:13.

18 LG 3; St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Eph. 20, 2: SCh 10, 76.

19 1 Tim 2:3-4.

20 2 Pet 3:9; cf. Mt 18:14.

21 Jn 13:34; cf. 1 Jn 3; 4; Lk 10:25-37.

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 judgement, 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 God 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

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Mk 1:1-8

The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
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.”
John the Baptist appeared in the desert
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
People of the whole Judean countryside
and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem
were going out to him
and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River
as they acknowledged their sins.
John was clothed in camel’s hair,
with a leather belt around his waist.
He fed on locusts and wild honey.
And this is what he proclaimed:
“One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/121017.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 422 ‘But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.’1 This is ‘the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God’:’2 God has visited his people. He has fulfilled the promise he made to Abraham and his descendants. He acted far beyond all expectation – he has sent his own ‘beloved Son’.3

CCC 515 The Gospels were written by men who were among the first to have the faith4 and wanted to share it with others. Having known in faith who Jesus is, they could see and make others see the traces of his mystery in all his earthly life. From the swaddling clothes of his birth to the vinegar of his Passion and the shroud of his Resurrection, everything in Jesus’ life was a sign of his mystery.5 His deeds, miracles and words all revealed that “in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.”6 His humanity appeared as “sacrament”, that is, the sign and instrument, of his divinity and of the salvation he brings: what was visible in his earthly life leads to the invisible mystery of his divine sonship and redemptive mission.
1 Gal 4:4-5.

2 Mk 1:1.

3 Mk 1:11; cf. Lk 1:5, 68.

4 Cf. Mk 1:1; Jn 21:24.

5 Cf Lk 2:7; Mt 27: 48; Jn 20:7.

6 Col 2:9.

APPLICATION

“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” In twelve words St. Mark sums up the initiation of the greatest event that ever occurred in our human history, an event whose culmination would be not on earth but in heaven. God fulfilled the plan he had for us when creation began. He raised us up to the dignity of divine sonship by the incarnation. The eternal Son of God “humbled himself” and joined our human nature to his divinity, thus making us his brothers and capable of sharing with him the eternal kingdom of his Father.

Mark’s story was, in fact, the greatest “good news” that man had ever received on earth. It is still the greatest, most astounding and, at the same time, most consoling news for us today. But just as there were those in Palestine who did not accept Christ’s claim to be what he manifested himself to be; “he came unto his own but his own received him not” (Jn. 1: 12); so today, there are many, too many alas, who do not receive him. The causes for rejecting his message, and his promise of everlasting happiness are the same today as they were for the Scribes and Pharisees of the first century A.D.

It was their stubborn pride and self-centeredness, the exaggerated sense of their own dignity and perfection, which blinded the eyes of their intellects. The result was that they could not see their Messiah, their Savior, in Christ. He had brought himself down to the level of man, by assuming man’s human nature. The Son of God assumed our human nature in order to live amongst us, to teach us how valuable God made us. He did so in order to die for us in that nature and to atone for all the sins of the human race.

The same stubborn pride, that same exaggerated sense of their own dignity, blinds the intellects of many today who not only refuse to accept Christ and his good tidings, but seem impelled also to prevent others from accepting him. The mad rush for earthly possessions and pleasures, the casting-off of all reasonable restraints and restrictions, which are so necessary for human society to survive, the rejection of all things spiritual in man’s make-up and life-purpose, the general incitement to the animal instincts in man—all these, and many more, are the evident signs of the rejection of Christ which are so actively propagated by many in our world now.

Let each one of us ask himself today am I for Christ or against him? Am I on the road to heaven or am I facing in the opposite direction? A brief examination of conscience will give the answer. How Christian is my daily conduct in my home, and in my place of work and recreation? Do I love God? Do I appreciate all he has done for me by sending his Son to raise me up, one day, to heaven? Do I really have my own best interests at heart, by striving always to be ready for Christ’s second coming when I breathe my last? Christmas recalls to us his first appearance on earth. Let us use these days of preparation for Christmas to prepare ourselves for his second coming. This will occur for each one of us on the day of our death.

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

BENEDICTUS

The Witness of John the Baptist

John appears in the wilderness as a man dedicated to God. First of all he preaches repentance, purification, and the gathering together of the people for the coming of God. In a sense this proclamation summarizes the whole of prophecy at the very moment when history is reaching its goal. His mission is to open the door for God, so that Israel is ready to welcme him and to prepare for his hour in history. The important things are first his call to repentance, which continues what all the prophets said, and second his witness to Christ, which again makes prophecy concrete in the image of the lamb, which is the Lamb of God. Let us recall the stories of Abraham, the stories of Isaac, the sacrifices that involve a lamb, especially the paschal sacrifice, in which a lamb is sacrificed. These substitutes now find their fulfillment. Basically, the Paschal Lamb stands in place of us men. Now Christ is sent by God to become the Paschal Lamb, and he shares our fate and thereby transforms it… John says that Christ is not just some historical personage, but is the one who goes before us all, who comes forth from the eternity of God and is an intimate part of that eternity.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Stir up our hears, I Lord, to prepare the ways of Your On;y-begotten Son, that we may attain to serve You with purified minds, through His advent. Who with You, live and reign forever and ever. Amen.

Dear friends:

The world is in great need of prayer. Please, if you don’t already, pick up your Rosary and begin to pray every day for the conversion of sinners and the reparation of souls in purgatory. You will be abundantly comforted and blessed by our Mother.

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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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