2nd Sunday in Advent
The Book of Baruch provides the first reading for this Second Sunday of Advent. Baruch is not one of the Major Prophets. It is relatively brief, certainly when the long books of Ezekiel, Isaiah and Jeremiah are considered.
It also is among the books once called by almost all Protestants scholars the Apocrypha. Baruch does not appear in the King James Version of the Bible.
Certain issues led to its omission from this revered Protestant translation. At one time it was presumed to have been written originally in Greek. The thinking was that no authentic Scripture could have been composed in any language other than Hebrew. Actually, scholars now believe that Baruch first was written in Hebrew, but that only Greek translations survive.
For Catholics, however, most important is the fact that Christians from early times venerated Baruch as part of the Bible, and the Church officially long has recognized it as such.
In any case, when Baruch was written great problems beset God’s people. A most severe trial was that many of the people were living outside the Holy Land. No happy choice caused this displacement. Political oppression or poverty forced the people to go elsewhere.
This book encouraged the suffering, exiled people, reassuring them that God would not forsake them, and that God’s justice and mercy will prevail over all.
The Epistle to the Philippians furnishes the next lesson. Written to the Christians of Philippi, an important city in the ancient Roman Empire, the epistle urges the Philippians loyal to the Lord to be steadfast in their faith, come what may, until the second coming of Jesus.
As so often found elsewhere in the New Testament, this reading strongly states that one day, but at a time unknown, Jesus will come again in triumph and judgment.
St. Luke’s Gospel is the source of the last reading.
This reading centers upon Jesus, although John the Baptist is quite evident in the reading. Carefully constructed, the Gospel presents the coming of Jesus as extraordinarily, indeed uniquely, important in the course of human affairs.
John the Baptist recognized Jesus, and he saw in the Lord’s coming this momentous entry of God and God’s mercy into human existence. Thus, John urged the people to prepare themselves to receive the Lord. Essential in this preparation was the personal rejection of sin.
John was a prophet and a holy man. In the Jewish mind, holiness, more than anything, gave persons special wisdom. John could be trusted. He spoke the truth.
To emphasize the importance of what was occurring, this Gospel takes pains in setting the presence of John, and the future coming of Christ, at an exact moment in history, namely when Tiberius was emperor, Pilate was his governor in Palestine, and so on.
Finally, Jesus came as God’s promised Redeemer. The prophets of old had yearned for the Redeemer and had predicted the coming of a Savior. When this Messiah would come, all would be made right. The rough ways for people would be made smooth.
When Baruch was written, times were bad for the Jews. When Philippians and the Gospel of Luke were written, times were hard for Christians. Circumstances differed, but the last condition of misery and hopelessness was the same.
On this second Sunday of Advent, times are hard for many. The economy still is anemic. Many still suffer the effects of Hurricane Sandy in the East. The results of sin still torment everyone.
All will be right; joy and peace will prevail, if we admit Jesus into our lives. We must be genuine. We must invite the Lord into our lives sincerely, by renouncing our sins, and by giving ourselves totally to God. John the Baptist calls us as he called people in his generation.
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