My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
So we continue on our Advent journey today, as we are preparing for the coming of Jesus once more into our lives.
As we know, this is the meaning of Advent. Even though we are followers of Jesus, even though we know him and love him and we are trying to live by his teachings — the Church gives us this holy season of Advent to encourage us to grow deeper in our relationship with him.
So, on this second Sunday of Advent, we hear about St. John the Baptist who comes “to prepare the way of the Lord, to make straight his paths.”
And as we heard in the Gospel today, John is there in the desert of Judea. He is dressed in camel’s hair and he is eating locusts and wild honey, and he is preaching in a loud voice and with strong language — announcing the Kingdom of heaven.
His words are not easy, as we heard:
Repent, the Kingdom of heaven is at hand …
Even now the axe lies at the root of the trees,
Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit
will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
Hard words. But we need to hear them.
Because John the Baptist today is calling us to a deeper conversion. He is calling us to open our hearts wider to Jesus. And he is reminding us today that our lives have a meaning in God’s eyes. He is reminding us that what we do and how we live — have consequences.
God judges our lives. But God’s judgment is not something that we should be afraid of.
God is all-love and all-merciful, and his love for you and for me is more than you could ever imagine. That’s what his divine judgment means. It means that God loves us and that our lives matter to him, and that he expects great things from us.
My dear brothers and sisters, we have a purpose, each one of us — a part to play in God’s creation, in God’s plan for the world. It’s amazing, it’s beautiful.
God made us to be holy, to live in his image and likeness. He made us to be sons and daughters of the living God, brothers and sisters of Jesus! He wants you to do something beautiful with our lives. He wishes only love for you and for me!
So this is what John the Baptist is talking about in the Gospel today. He is telling us that our lives are intended to “bear good fruit” for God’s Kingdom. Fruits of love and peace, fruits of mercy and love and justice.
So this Advent, once again, we need to ask ourselves during Advent, how are we doing in our Christian life? Are we living the way that God wants us to live?
During this holy season of Advent, John the Baptist is calling us to follow him into the “desert.”
That’s a challenging goal. Because, in a practical way, that means we need to get away from some things, to make some time every day to be alone with God. It’s a challenge because maybe that means that we have to turn off the television, or maybe to turn off the cell phone. And to try to be quiet and alone with God for a little while. To let him speak to our hearts.
And then, St. John the Baptist tells us that we need to “repent.” And as we know, repentance means turning towards God and turning away from the things that are not of God.
So again, this Advent season we need to ask ourselves — what are the things in our lives that are not worthy of Jesus? What sins in our lives we need to overcome? What are our bad habits, our weaknesses? Are we being lazy in our prayer life, in our devotions to God? Are there people in our lives that we have a hard time forgiving?
So my dear brothers and sisters, during this time of Advent we have the grace to really work on these areas in our lives. Advent is always a special time to look for the grace of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and to know better the life of Jesus.
And today let us ask for the grace to make a good confession before Christmas, that we can meet Jesus with a totally pure and clean heart.
Let us ask also for the grace to turn again to the Gospels, to the life of Jesus.
St. Paul tells us today in the second reading of today’s Mass that the Scriptures are “written for our instruction.” They are written to give us hope and encouragement, so that we can live “in keeping with Christ Jesus.”
So I usually talk a lot about the importance of finding the time to read the Gospels because I think it’s so important, just a little piece of the life of Jesus that is in the Gospels every day. That will make a huge difference in our lives.
We really need to love the Gospels, we need to love to meet Jesus in the Gospels and to think about the scenes from his life and to have his words in our hearts.
Because Jesus came into the world to show us how to live as children of God. He came to be our model.
And reading the Gospels every day, we learn about his life. About how to imitate him, about how to love him more, and to find that he is always present in our lives.
It doesn’t take a long time, just a few minutes that we can read a little passage of the Gospel. Maybe the daily Gospel of daily Mass. So, let us try to make time during this Advent season to meet Jesus in the Gospels.
And as we enter the second week of our Advent journey, let us try to make time to going into the “desert” and to listen for his voice and meditate on his words in the Gospels.
Jesus wants all of us to grow in his wisdom and understanding. He wants us to follow in his footsteps — again, to grow in his image and likeness. This is God’s plan for our lives. This is why he’s coming at Christmas.
He wants to teach us how to love as he loves. And he wants to bring his joy and love into the lives of the people that we meet. He wants our lives to bear beautiful fruits of love.
As we know, tomorrow is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Usually today, December 8th, but because today is Sunday so it is going to be celebrated tomorrow.
So, let us ask Our Blessed Mother, Immaculate Conception, to help us on our spiritual journey, so that we can make a straight path for Jesus and welcome him into our hearts every day and especially on Christmas day.
1. Readings: Isa. 11:1-10; Ps. 72:1`-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17; Rom. 15:4-9; Matt. 3:1-12.