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Homily for the second-Sunday of advent year A

02 Dec 2016, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Sermons

john-baptistWe are already in the second week of advent, and St. Paul reminds us in the second reading this morning that Everything written long ago in the scriptures was meant to teach us something about hope from the examples scripture gives of how God helped people who did not give up. The prophecies of old were all “advent season”; they were all in preparation for the Messiah’s coming. Isaiah said in our first reading that a shoot springs from the stock of Jesse; it’s like a new branch growing out of an ancient and weak tree. It was a message of hope for Israel’s persecuted people; the Babylonians enslaved them, 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 prophesied 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 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 Rabi regalia but wore a garment of camel-hair with a leather belt around 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 to go into the wilderness but to that baptismal font 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, the Church also calls all her children this season to 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 words, John warned them never to deceive themselves because they are descendants of Abraham; they must live as Abraham lived to be saved. We too must not be fooled into believing that our baptism is enough because, in so many ways, we have contaminated our baptismal consecration; there is a 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, I pray God to give us the spirit of repentance to enable us to receive Christ worthily into our lives afresh.

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