Second Sunday of Advent - December 10, 2017 (Thoman)

2nd Sunday of Advent | Holy Spirit (HG)

Is 40:1-5, 9-11 | II Pt. 3:8-14 |  Mk 1:1-8

“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.”

I. Just about everyone has heard the expression, “hitting rock bottom.”

  • it refers to those times in our lives when we reach the end of our rope – when we get down and out – when it seems nothing worse can happen – when we are at our wits end – when there is no place to go, but up.
  • might typically think of it as relating to times when we become addicted in some way: to alcohol, some other drug, pornography, or maybe even some compulsive habit, like hoarding.
  • in that brokenness, we are then ready for healing: we are then ready to work on improving our lives.

II. Maybe that kind of experience helps us get an insight into what is meant by a “contrite” heart. “…a contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn.”

  • a contrite heart is a broken heart – not in the sense of disappointment, but in the sense it is open to receiving God’s grace and forgiveness
  • a contrite heart is not proud: it is not haughty or distant from heart 
  • a contrite heart is an honest heart: when we have a contrite heart we have the humility to know we need God’s forgiveness
  • a contrite heart is like “hitting bottom,” a contrite heart has no place to go but “up” – up into God’s healing forgiveness
  • John the Baptist called people to a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins; a contrite heart is a repentant heart

III. The path to a repentant, contrite heart needs to be cleaned of rubble. Both the prophet Isaiah and John the Baptist in our scriptures today talk about preparing the way of the Lord: we need to clean out the rubble so as to make a straight and clear path for God’s coming into our hearts. We can do that by:

  • being honest with ourselves – admitting to ourselves that we do sin, not rationalizing away our sin – but simply naming our sin – taking an honest assessment of ourselves
  • have a strong desire to do good and to avoid evil. Do we set our heart on the path of goodness?
  • Do I actively seek ways to be good – to foster attitudes which are truly Christian attitudes?
  • Do I look for ways to speak appropriately – to say things in ways which are positive, helpful, supportive, encouraging 
  • Do I translate my Christian attitudes into action? Is it obvious to those around me that I am a disciple of Jesus? Can they see Jesus in my daily lifestyle?
  • Do I consciously root myself in prayer: am I intentional in beginning the day with prayer and ending the day in prayer? Do I pepper prayer throughout the day? Do I seek additional support for my prayer from scripture, prayer books or reflection resources?
  • Have I come to realize – in my contrite heart – that I have a need for the Sacrament of Reconciliation? When was the last time I celebrated this sacrament of forgiveness? Is my heart contrite enough to embrace this beautiful sacrament?

IV. In my first year in the seminary, in the first semester, we had a class on the on the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke

  • on the first day of the class the professor said: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.” And then stopped! We spent two weeks: ten days on that sentence! And I thought – “My goodness, if we spend ten class periods on each sentence of the gospels, we’ll never get through it!”
  • commentators make much ado about that statement – it isn’t just a simple introduction
    • one commentator reflected on that: Mark is saying I will give you information about Jesus – who he was, what he did, his teaching – but this is only the beginning – you – me and you – those who hear the gospel – are the  “rest of the story” as Paul Harvey would say - we are the ones who finish the gospel by our lives.

V. Last week I reflected in my homily upon the “laments” of our time – those things in the world and our personal lives that bring us down, that dampen our spirit, that cause us to loose hope. Advent renews our hope: Advent tells us God can come into the midst of these laments and give us a wider perspective. Be watchful, be awake for God’s presence in the midst of the laments of our lives.

This Second Sunday of Advent, the point is God can come into our personal lives, into a heart which is broken and contrite – a heart of humility, a heart open to God working there.  In this way the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ continues in us.

(Fr. Dwayne Thoman)