Previous Calendar: Second Sunday of Advent
"There shall come forth a shoot from the stump or Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord."Jesse Tree ~ Joseph
The first reading is taken from the book of Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11. These words of consolation and comfort were spoken to the Jewish exiles in Babylon. The end of their exile was near. The people would be brought back to Judea and Jerusalem by the power of God. Following the New Testament writers, the Church has seen in these words of the prophet much more than the liberation of the Babylonian exiles, namely, the true and final liberation of all mankind, brought about by the coming of the Son of God as Messiah and Redeemer.The second reading is from the second Letter of St. Peter 3:8-14. The twofold purpose of this letter is to warn against false teachers and to dispel some anxiety the Christians of that day felt because of the apparent delay of Christ's second coming as Judge.The Gospel is from Mark 1:1-8. "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." In twelve words St. Mark sums up the initiation of the greatest event that ever occurred in our human history, an event whose culmination would be not on earth but in heaven. God fulfilled the plan he had for us when creation began. He raised us up to the dignity of divine sonship by the incarnation. The eternal Son of God "humbled himself" and joined our human nature to his divinity, thus making us his brothers and capable of sharing with him the eternal kingdom of his Father. Mark's story was, in fact, the greatest "good news" that man had ever received on earth. It is still the greatest, most astounding and, at the same time, most consoling news for us today. But just as there were those in Palestine who did not accept Christ's claim to be what he manifested himself to be — "he came unto his own but his own received him not" (Jn. I : 12) — so today, there are many, too many alas, who do not receive him. The causes for rejecting Christ and his message, and his promise of everlasting happiness are the same today as they were for the Scribes and Pharisees of the first century A.D.It was their stubborn pride and self-centeredness, the exaggerated sense of their own dignity and perfection, which blinded the eyes of their intellects. The result was that they could not see their Messiah, their Savior, in Christ: He had brought himself down to the level of man, by assuming man's human nature. The Son of God assumed our human nature in order to live amongst us, to teach us how valuable God made us. He did so in order to die for us in that nature and to atone for all the sins of the human race.The same stubborn pride, that same exaggerated sense of their own dignity, blinds the intellects of many today who not only refuse to accept Christ and his good tidings, but seem impelled also to prevent others from accepting him. The mad rush for earthly possessions and pleasures, the casting-off of all reasonable restraints and restrictions, which are so necessary for human society to survive, the rejection of all things spiritual in man's make-up and life-purpose, the general incitement to the animal instincts in man — all these, and many more, are the evident signs of the rejection of Christ which are so actively propagated by many in our world now.Let each one of us ask himself today am I for Christ or against him? Am I on the road to heaven or am I facing in the opposite direction? A brief examination of conscience will give the answer. How Christian is my daily conduct in my home, and in my place of work and recreation? Do I love God? Do I appreciate all he has done for me by sending his Son to raise me up, one day, to heaven? Do I really have my own best interests at heart, by striving always to be ready for Christ's second coming when I breathe my last? Christmas recalls to us his first appearance on earth. Let us use these days of preparation for Christmas to prepare ourselves for his second coming. This will occur for each one of us on the day of our death.
— Excerpted from The Sunday Readings by Fr. Kevin O'Sullivan, O.F.M.