2nd Sunday of Advent – Gospel Reflection

Prepare a Way for the Lord (Mark 1:1-8)

Two great prophets, Isaiah and John the Baptist, stride into our liturgical readings for the Second Sunday of Advent.  We usually think of prophets as people who foretell the future but that is only partially true.  The real meaning of prophecy is unveiling and proclaiming God’s presence in dark and difficult times.

Last Sunday we reflected on hope as the great virtue of Advent.  Hope is one of the three theological virtues, along with faith and charity, which keep us rooted in God.   Hope is the strong root that keeps us going even when faith can see no clear answers, and love struggles in the face of injustices and hurt.

Hope is stronger than optimism.  Optimism may be based on a false foundation such as a hunch or a superstition.  Hope is rooted in nothing less than God’s presence even at the worst of times.   God’s time will come.  In today’s Second Reading, Peter tells us how God’s calendar is different to ours, for with the Lord a day can mean a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day.

Situations can change overnight.  Many of us clearly remember a few months in 1989 when the Berlin Wall was smashed and Communist rule was overthrown in one country after another without a shot fired.  Who could have foreseen it?


The greatest of the prophets (God’s revealers), Isaiah, provides today’s First Reading.  The Jews were devasted, exiled in Babylon for fifty years.  They hung up their harps, so joyless was their depression.

Then, overnight there was a new King, Cyrus, who announced that they could return to Jerusalem.  “Her time of service is ended, her sin is atoned for.”   Isaiah tells them to prepare a way for the Lord, get ready for the return to their homeland.  He compared the road home to a new road through the wilderness.

John the Baptist

John the Baptist is a link between the Old Testament and the New.  His time was like our own in many ways.   Although there were very dedicated people and reform groups like the Essenes, yet by and large religion had lost its vitality.   Mediocrity prevailed.   The legalistic people, Scribes and Pharisees, had choked all joy out of religion.  The priestly people who ran the Temple were into a money-making racket, fleecing the pilgrims with all sorts of taxes.  Excessive legalism and authoritarian clericalism!  Sounds a bit familiar!  Aren’t we   untouchable?

There had been no outstanding prophet for hundreds of years until John the Baptist appeared.  Instead of avoiding sinners, he invited them to come, to partake in a ceremonial washing and to start afresh.  Furthermore, his task was to prepare a way for the Lord. He recalled Isaiah’s roadworks and we too can take that imagery to challenge our conscience in preparing the way for Christmas.

Prepare the Way for Christmas

Do I have crooked ways to straighten where I have deviated from the commandments and ideals of Christ?  Are there winding ways where I am not fully honest with God … with others … with myself?

Every valley must be filled.  These valleys are the low times when I wandered from God’s presence and support.  Has my confidence in God been low?  Have I allowed the bad news take over my thinking.  Have I given adequate time to prayer?  Has the light of faith gone very dim.

Every mountain must be laid low.  These mountains are the huge obstacles which I imagine are insurmountable.  I lack the confidence of the psalmist.  “I lift up my eyes to the mountain.  From where shall come my help?  My help shall come from the Lord who made heaven and earth.”

What hills must be flattened?  Pride makes me look down on others.  I subject them to my judgement.  I boss them.  I need the grace of humility.

Rough ways must be made smooth.  The jagged edges of my personality irritate others.  Am I insensitive, lacking in generosity or unwilling to compromise?


O God, may I always know you as Someone-is-Coming.   May I never lose hope.  Help me to see that you are always present.

Take me and use me to be someone-coming for others.  May I be caring towards those who are neglected, and sensitive to those who are hurt.

Use me as the source of good news for those burdened by the sadness of sin, and as the spark of joy for those who are depressed.

Maranatha, come Lord Jesus, come.

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