Homily for the second-Sunday of advent year A

john-baptistWe are already in the second week of advent, and St. Paul reminds us in the second reading this morning that Everything that was written long ago in the scriptures was meant to teach us something about hope from the examples scripture gives of how people who did not give up were helped by God. The prophesies of old were all “advent season”, they were all in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. Isaiah said in our first reading that a shoot springs from the stock of Jesse, it’s like a new branch growing out of a very old and weak tree. It was a message of hope for the persecuted people of Israel, they were enslaved by the Babylonians, their cities and Temple were destroyed and their land became dried like an old dead tree. But the prophet Isaiah prophesized that from that deserted land, from among the persecuted and enslaved people of God, from that dead old tree a shoot springs. And on the shoot rests the Spirit of God; the spirit of wisdom and insight, the spirit of counsel and power.

Isaiah prophesized about the coming of the Lord, and Matthew in our gospel reading today testify that In due course John the Baptist appeared; he preached in the wilderness of Judaea and this was his message: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand’.

John’s voice was heard in the wilderness, he called the people back into the wilderness for a renewal, to their very beginning. John the Baptist did not go to any synagogue to preach his message, he did not dress himself up with the regalia of the Rabi but wore a garment of camel-hair with a leather belt round his waist and preached in the wilderness. The wilderness or the desert was the place the people of Israel were trained to love and obey God, it was in the wilderness they first encountered the power and presence of God in a way they had never seen, and it was in the wilderness they went into a convent with God. They broke that convent after God had re-settled them in the promised land, so John the Baptist today in our gospel reading calls the people back to the wilderness to renew their convent with God, to go back to the desert and retrace their steps to see where they slipped away from God.

The season of advent is also for us Christians, the new Israel to go back to retrace our steps. You and I may not have been trained in the desert, there is no need going into the wilderness but to that baptismal fount where we first encountered Jesus and renounced the devil. Just as John the Baptist called the people back into the desert to prepare for the coming of the Messiah, so also the Church calls all her children this season to a sober reflections and repentance in preparation for the commemoration of the birth of Christ. The advent season is an opportunity for us once again to renew our covenant with God in Christ Jesus, to renew our baptismal promises just as the people of Israel renewed their convent with God and were baptized by John the Baptist.

We must not make the same mistake the Pharisees and the Sadducees made, John had to warn them saying; do not presume to tell yourselves, “We have Abraham for  our father,” because, I tell you, God can raise children for Abraham from these stones. In other word, John warned them never to deceive themselves with the fact that they are descendants of Abraham, they must live as Abraham lived to be saved. We too must not be deceived into believing that our baptism is enough because in so many ways we have contaminated our baptismal consecration, there is need for us to go back to our own kind of wilderness to be renewed in preparation for the celebration of Christmas and the second coming of Christ.

Even though the advent season is a celebration of hope, John the Baptist however reminds us that Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees, so that any tree which fails to produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown on the fire.  John talks about the winnowing fan to separate the wheat from the chaff, which is a reminder to everyone to look beyond the birth of Christ to prepare for his second coming.

As we continue to pray and prepare ourselves for the commemoration of the great mystery of the incarnation advent season, I pray God to give us the spirit of repentance to enable us receive Christ worthily into our lives afresh.

Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA

Joel Okojie is an ordained Catholic Priest in the Order of St. Augustine. He has been a Priest for over a decade. He served as pastor in two different parishes, he was one time Novice Master and a member of the Provincial Council of the province of St. Augustine of Nigeria, and he is currently on a mission in response to the needs of the Church in Canada.

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