What Sort of Persons We Ought to Be: Second Sunday of Advent

“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.”

Central idea: The sort of persons we should be eager to become. Doctrine: The virtue of friendliness. Practical application: Become friendlier.

Lectionary 5.

Central idea: The sort of persons we should be eager to become

Reading 1 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.

  • Over centuries, the prophets of Israel announced “the coming of God’s son to earth” (CCC 522). This passage from the Book of Isaiah is one such.
  • During Advent, we recall the “ancient expectancy” of the Chosen People for the coming of the Messiah in order to stir up our own “ardent desire” for his second advent (CCC 524).
  • We can take comfort, as in have hope, that one day soon our own struggles will come to an end, when we meet Christ in our particular judgment.
  • But right now, we build this highway for our God by our struggle to imitate Christ. That is what levels out the peaks and valleys of our life.
    • For example, with the grace of Christ, we demolish the peak of foolhardiness and fill in the ravine of cowardice so that we can travel toward Christ along the way of courage.
    • Or we level the hills of our fawning, flattery, and human regard, and raise up the valleys of our indifference, smugness, and self-centeredness, to pave a highway of true friendship with our neighbor.

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

R. 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.

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

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.

  • The people of God do want the kingdom of God. In fact, all people of good will want a place to live in which they have peace, security, and justice, and experience mutual kindness—all grounded in the truth.
  • But is this really what everyone has wanted and wants today? Individuals and societies have operated on the basis of the strong and clever deceiving, oppressing, enslaving, plundering, and killing the weaker.
  • A particular form of oppression with a religious veneer, which has existed since the seventh century and which is on the rise again, is militant Islam.
  • To age-old tyrannies which still exist around the world, the modern age has added a whole new series of promised utopias not grounded in the truth, like:
    • We can build a perfect world by rejecting the superstition of religion and living by reason and science alone (the Enlightenment and scientism).
    • We can build a perfect world by overthrowing the capitalist economic order which enslaves workers and by instituting socialism or communism (Marxism).
    • We can build a perfect world by freeing people from their dark and oppressive sexual psychological enslavements (Freud).
    • We can build a perfect world if the “superman”, freed from Christian morality, seizes what he wants (Nietzsche and Fascism).
    • We can build a perfect world if women can be freed of the enslavement of motherhood (feminism).
    • We can build a perfect world if only a few human beings exist (environmentalism).
    • We can build a perfect world if everyone can have sex in whatever way they want without anyone judging them (the sexual revolution and “gay rights”).
  • In none of those ideologies can it be said that kindness and truth met or justice and peace kissed.

Reading 2 2 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.

  • According to St. Peter, the Lord is patiently giving us time so that generations and generations of persons can live and become the “sort of persons” fit for eternal life.
  • Thus, we should aspire to become, as quickly as possible, persons who can be described as holy, devoted, righteous, without spot, without blemish.
  • In other words, we should aspire to be and to do good, avoiding all evil.

Gospel 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.”

  • John is the last and greatest of all the prophets of Israel, sent by God immediately before Christ’s advent to prepare the way for him (CCC 523). “John bears witness to Christ in his preaching, by his Baptism of conversion, and through his martyrdom” (CCC 523).
  • Many Jews who heard John the Baptist responded positively; that is, they received this “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”
  • Some questions we can all ask ourselves are: To what extent do I need to repent? To what extent have I repented? What makes me want to repent? How can I help others convert their lives?

Doctrine: The virtue of friendliness

  • God desires to be in a state of friendship with us and for us to be in a state of friendship with ourselves, with other persons, and even with the natural world. That is what the Church means by original holiness and justice. It is why Christ has saved us, why he sanctifies us, and why there will be a new creation.
  • God’s friendliness is what draws us to him. Human friendliness is what draws us to other persons and other persons to us.
  • Friendliness is the virtue by which we show to others that we welcome, accept, value and support them. Friendliness helps us to make and keep friends. Friendliness helps us to ‘just get along’ with people in all sorts of situations. It assists us in cooperating with others to achieve goals. Other names for friendliness are sociability and agreeableness.
  • It is possible to be “too” friendly or falsely friendly. Watch out for flatterers who feign friendship to manipulate. It is also a vice to lack friendliness Nobody likes to be around a surly, self-interested lout.
  • People deserve our friendliness because of their inherent human dignity. On the practical level, we also need to be friendly to just about everyone. We are all members of the human community. We depend on each other. Friendliness makes cooperation easier and we need to cooperate.
  • Friendliness is affectionate, warm, and welcoming; friendliness is delighted with and admiring of the other; it is altruistic, benevolent, beneficial, generous, and helpful whenever it sees a need; it is benign and never deliberately does harm; it is attentive, considerate, sympathetic, and supportive; it is patient, peaceful, and easy-going in the face of difficulties; it is civil, cordial, courteous, and respectful; it is cheerful and has a sense of humor; it is forgiving, lenient, conciliatory and understanding; it is communicative and responsive; it is cooperative; friendliness is loyal, faithful, devoted, and trustworthy.

Practical application: Become friendlier

  • If we want to grow in friendliness, so as to be more like God and really be of use to others, we can think about our various relationships with other persons and ask, Am I really behaving as a friend?
  • Different relationships do call for different applications of the qualities of friendliness.
    • Are we actually acting toward God like a friend of God? For example, do we greet him in the morning, talk to him at times during the day, “dine at his home” when he invites us each Sunday, thank him for the gifts he has given us, and ask his pardon for offending him?
    • What about the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, or some other saint we have an attachment to, or our guardian angel?
    • How about our parents if we are a child or if we are all grown up and they are older?
    • Then there is the special friendship of our spouse and children and members of our extended family. What about them?
    • What about how we behave toward our friends, co-workers, and neighbors?
    • Then there are the people we randomly meet, like cashiers and those we share the roads with. What about them?
  • If we pick any one of these persons or groups of persons and think of them while going over the qualities of friendliness, we may experience gladness which tell us we are acting as a true friend. We may also experience some ouches which indicate that is a sore spot and so we have something to work on.
  • Then it is a matter of forming a specific practical resolution. It is a waste of time simply to resolve to be more friendly to people. Much better would be to resolve something specific like the following:
    • I will be more devoted to God by greeting him the moment I awaken each morning.
    • I will be more courteous to people who wait on me in stores, restaurants, and fast food windows by saying please, thank you, and have a good day.
    • I will let drivers who want to change lanes in front of me or merge into my lane to do those things.
    • I will be more affectionate toward my wife by giving her a kiss with each goodbye and hello.

The Homiletic Directory recommends the following Catechism points and themes for the Second Sunday of Advent:

  • CCC 522, 711-716, 722: the prophets and the expectation of the Messiah
  • CCC 523, 717-720: the mission of John the Baptist
  • CCC 1042-1050: a new heaven and a new earth






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