Saturday, December 5, 2020

Advent - A Path Towards a Future of Salvation

Second Sunday of Advent - 06 December 2020

Readings: Isaiah 40:1–5, 9–11; Psalm 85:9–14; 2 Peter 3:8–14; Mark 1:1–8

 (Image courtesy: Jean Marc Arkelian)

Listen to my audio homily here - play to click

I. We meet God in our history

The running theme in all the readings of the Second Sunday of Advent is "prepare the way of the Lord." Advent is the time of opening ourselves to a God who is full of hope and power. This God of might and strength gives us to see new possibilities, to be renewed, to let the life that the Holy Spirit who has been breathed into us become our life. During the Advent Season the liturgical readings assist us to grow in the love of the Lord. The Word of God prepares us to meet the Lord - who has come. 

Advent is a time when we meet a God who came to us in history, the history of humankind. Our God is not an abstract thing, or a concept to be understood. The God who came to us, took flesh of a human person and dwelt among us. In spite of Prophet Isaiah's foretelling people didn't take notice of Jesus 2000 years ago. So how is that God of history is relevant to us? Why should we have this Season of Advent when Son of God has been born and lived with us? 

II. God never stops surprising us

God is a mystery who acts in the history of humanity even though He is not bound by it.  We are invited to contemplate God whose promises are being fulfilled within this time and history. God's promises continue to shape and bring them to fulfilment slowly but in unexpected ways and through the least expected people. The consolation is that God never ceases to surprise us when we encounter Him. We know that we cannot flourish in isolation.  God surprises us when we seek a genuine change and together with others when we rebuild and heal our broken world.

III. God comes to us in mercy and compassion

Mark's Gospel begins with the proclamation of Jesus's coming through the prophet John the Baptist. According to Jesus, John is the greatest of prophets of all the time (Matthew 11:11). He is a light shining the darkness. He is the messenger foretold by Isaiah. He is in the desert, calling people to repent and to change their ways. He is full of hope and expectations because he is heralding someone who is already present in his own time. Therefore his testimony is already in the process of becoming. Hence his job and duty is to prepare people through repentance and mercy. He provides God's mercy through baptizing them in the river Jordan with water. It is a very tangible external sign of inward conversion of the person who receives it. God comes to people through mercy and compassion. He comes to us in our misery and need, in truth and in love. God has inexhaustible patience to call us to the new way of our life which would lead us to the Kingdom of heaven. 

St Ignatius of Loyola in the Spiritual Exercises gives a beautiful method to contemplate God our Lord that is Kingdom Exercise (№ 91-98). Here the retreatent asks for a particular grace: “I will ask for the grace that I desire. Here it will be to ask of our Lord the grace not to be deaf to his call, but prompt and diligent to accomplish his holy will.” (№ 92). To do this we need to look upon the whole world in all its present conditions, places, people and circumstances. They indicate the habits of our heart as well as the means by which we wish to serve the Church and the world in all its needs.

IV. Power is to accompany and to serve

Often we live in hedonistic (Greek understanding - self-indulgent) or charvaka (Indian understanding - worldly pleasure) way. In other words, we live for ourselves, our laziness, our glory, and our hegemony, that make our lives a spiritual wasteland. Whatever religious piety we might live externally but internally we are stuck with the ways of this world. We have to straighten out our lives so that everything we do leads us to Him. In this context John the Baptist is a best person to admonish us. Even though, the prophet John knew his task and his power as messenger of God he did not say that he is the one who is chosen by God to bring salvation to his people instead he clearly said he is just the way to the Messiah. John knew his mission well not to get distracted with authority and power he was having over the people including of repentance.  As soon as Jesus took over his ministry, John moves out of the scene and sends away his disciples like Andrew and others to Jesus (Jn 1:40). 

Either in our secular world or in our ecclesiastical/religious world, very often people get stuck with the power or newly acquired status. People who are on the top are supposed to accompany people and not show power over them. The duty of the CEO or manager, bishop or a provincial, superior or a rector is to accompany people, to empower them and not show the authority of their job. Because finally everyone has only one home to enter, where there would not be any power or authority to exercise, and all the power that you exercised will not take you to that home. St John the Baptist pointed at Jesus as a power who would bring all humanity unto him. Therefore he said, “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Mk 1:7-8) And that insight should lead us to repentance, to shed our self-centeredness, and to grow in an eagerness to look at the other as my own. This is possible when we see this world as God sees, knows and loves it, with all its beauty and its painful truth.  

Questions for reflections:

1. We often sing, “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed.” What does it mean to me during this Season of Advent?

2. Prophet Isaiah gives a beautiful image of God who “will feed his flock like a shepherd, gather the lambs in his arm” (40:11). How do you picture this? What does it say to you today?

3. Can I be like St John the Baptist ready to humble myself in spite of my portfolios or positions that I hold either in my family, congregation or in the Church or outside? Do I see any change I would like to bring the way I accompany people, guide or help them to grow?

Merciful God,
You sent John the Baptist to preach repentance and humility.
Forgive us for the times we have been so stubborn and so stupid 
when we have hurt other people and stopped them to be joyful.
Lead us to make a change in our lifestyle and way of going about
thus we may be persons of gentleness and humility, holiness and devotion.
We make this prayer in Jesus' name. Amen.

Spend time in prayer this Advent, reconnecting with God, and with your neighbour

- Olvin Veigas, SJ

05 November 2020


Joilin said...

Extremely satisfied with your article! Wonderful message, reminds me of the importance of this season of grace to remain humble and docile to the promptings of the Holy Spirit like John the Baptist in preparing myself and accompany others to meet the Lord - who has come to save us all.

Prema said...

Incredible thoughts on the days readings!
For John the Baptist, frontiers and boundaries are not obstacles but new challenges to be faced and new opportunities to be welcomed, come what may; by all means he desired to make Jesus known to others.
Your article reminds us of the very fact that our greatness lies in our humility and simplicity. Thanks Olvin.

Unknown said...

Olvin, seasonal greetings!
Your article gave me a pleasant surprise this morning. Wonderful piece of work that's full of hope. Indeed I gifted it to many more that they too may be led by that same hope. It's our hope, "God never cease to surprise us when we encounter Him."

Unknown said...

I found the day meaningful and productive by reading and sharing your article. Thanks a million for envisioning me.

Vincy said...

Wonderful Article! Thankyou very much. Keep doing the same. God bless you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks father. I have heard your audio reflections. It is very clear, I am extremely happy to listen to you. Thanks for the reflections and questions. May the good god bless you and keep you in good health of mind and body so that you may bring back many more people to HIM

Anonymous said...

Very beautiful reflection to spend this advent season in a meaningful way. Thanks for calling me to grow in humility and through that to give greater glory to God. Thank you so much father for keep inspiring.