Homily for second Sunday of Advent C
In our first reading this morning, God calls on Jerusalem to take off her dress of sorrow and distress, and put on the beauty of the glory of God. It is a call to preparation for a triumphant return, a reminder to Jerusalem that even though her children were taken away on foot with their enemies as escort, he will bring them back like royal princes carried back in glory.
The children of Jerusalem, the people of Judah, were taken away into exile in Babylon. They lived in a foreign land, a land of “no hope”. They remained slaves in Babylon, and for many years cried to God for help. When the appointed time came, God decreed that every mountain and hills be flattened and valleys leveled in preparation for the return of his people. God used the Persians as his instrument to break the power of Babylon over the children of Jerusalem, and he brought them back home as he promised. The deliverance was like a dream as the psalmist says; when the Lord delivered Zion from bondage, it seemed like a dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, on our lips there were songs.
The call to Jerusalem to take off her dress of sorrow and distress, and put on the beauty of the glory of God is also a call to the whole Church today. And to put on this beauty and glory, we must first of all take off the dress of sorrow and distress, the dress of sin and failures, the dress of fear and doubts. Yes; that was what happened in the life of the blind Bartimaeus as recorded in the gospel according to Mark 10:46-52. The blind man was by the side of the road begging when the multitude following Jesus attracted his attention, so, he asked who it was that was passing. When he was told that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he cried out for help; Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me. He needed help, he was tired of putting on the garment of sorrow and distress, he was tired of putting on the garment of blindness, the garment of rejection, and of humiliation. His cry for help made Jesus stopped and said, call him. That call, for the blind man was a call to take off his dress of sorrow and distress to be clothed with beauty and glory. He got up and threw away the garment of blindness to receive the garment of sight from Jesus. That is what the prophet Baruch reminds us today in our first reading, that to put on the beauty and glory of God, we need first of all to take off the dress of sorrow and distress. We need to take away the spirit of doubts.
God decreed the flattening of mountains and hills for the return of his people from Babylon where they were held captives. The Babylonian captivity ended when the people returned home, and this home coming is the reason for this season. The Church calls on us her children to prepare during this season to receive Christ who will lead us home. The voice of God is calling, A voice cries in the wilderness; Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley will be filled in, every mountain and hill be laid low, winding ways will be straightened and rough roads made smooth. Let us make a way for the Lord to come into our hearts as we prepare to celebrate the gift of God’s love, to celebrate the gift of God’s salvation, to celebrate Christmas. This season is a season of grace, through the Church God offers this opportunity every year. It is a penitential season, a season of repentance, a season of grace. The Church specially calls her children this season to pay attention to the voice crying in the wilderness, to learn from the blind beggar to throw away the garment of sorrow and distress and run to Jesus for help.
Our gospel passage reminds us of how John proclaimed the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin, and how he calls on each and everyone of us to fill every valley in our lives and make every hill and mountain low. It is an opportunity to make amends.
The Babylonian captivity may be over, but some Christians are still held captive. Some are held captive by their past, weaknesses, habits, anger and so many other things. These are garments we must throw away, they are mountains and hills that must be leveled in our lives and they are valleys that must be filled. There there may be many other things in our world today that could raise mountains and hill on our way, that could create valleys to make the journey home difficult. There are many things in the world that could silence in our lives the voice of the one crying in the wilderness.
The world is becoming very noisy, so many confusing voices speaking and beckoning on us to come, but St. Paul encourages us in our second reading to learn to recognize what is best for us with the help of God. He says, This will help you to become pure and blameless, and prepare you for the Day of Christ, when you will reach the perfect goodness which Jesus Christ produces in us for the glory and praise of God.
May the grace of this season enable us to prepare well for the celebration of Christmas.