Advent invites us to respond, marvel anew with fresh faith

By: By Shawn Reeves

Second Sunday of Advent/Dec. 7

Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11; Psalm 85:9-10,11-12,13-14; 2 Peter 3:8-14; Mark 1:1-8

My youngest son just turned 3. I can still remember the anticipation of his arrival — the joyful announcement of pregnancy, the discerning of names, the observation of tiny kicks upon rounded skin, the family in hushed wait in the hospital, and the glee in my other son’s voice as he received the revelation that a little brother was born unto him. My wife will give birth to our third child in February, and already I feel that anticipation renewed — the energy that surrounds the expectation that something is about to be fulfilled.

As we settle into this Second Sunday of Advent, few themes impress themselves upon me as forcefully as that of eager anticipation. “A voice cries out,” and we listen attentively to the message that something is about to change, something new is about to come. “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed.” Valleys will be filled in. Mountains will no longer be insurmountable. Rugged terrains shall be made hospitable. The coming of the Lord is the coming of transformation.

But it is not a merely passive transformation. Rarely do we do nothing when we see change coming our way. Summer wanes. Autumn makes its presence known. The hinting of yet another season prompts us to locate our heavy coats, pull out our space heaters from storage, and place our snow shovels where they are accessible. The signs of the change of seasons “cry out,” and we prepare.

Anticipation naturally leads to preparation. A voice crying out naturally leads to a response.

A TIME TO MARVEL
And so it is that when our first reading is cited and repeated in the Gospel, John the Baptist takes up and reanimates Isaiah’s words, and they “cry out” again: “one mightier than I is coming.” But just as St. Peter urges the Church to dedicate itself more fervently to the Lord as preparation for “the coming day of God,” so also John’s audience anticipates from his words the coming of Jesus and prepares by confession and baptism. They hear and respond, anticipate and make themselves ready. And transformation begins — conversion is born.

But anticipation never quite passes away, either. As the people are led from the barren desert, where John’s words first cry out, to the cool, baptismal waters of the Jordan River, their anticipation of the Lord’s coming is enlivened further by expectation that the Lord, when he comes, will pour upon them not merely fresh water from the river but living water, the Holy Spirit himself.

But this is not for us a “crying out” that has been exiled to a distant and remote past. Having been caught up by the Holy Spirit into the inspired testimony of the Scriptures, this “crying out” has become “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12), echoing its pronouncement through every time and place — prepare yourself; the Lord comes!

Christ is always coming to us — he never ceases. At every Mass, the Church believes, Jesus comes again in our midst through the Word proclaimed, through the minister, through the community united in prayer, and, most vividly, through the Eucharist itself (Second Vatican Council).
Every Advent is a “crying out,” a proclamation of the Lord who has come and will come again. Every Advent is an opportunity to marvel at that first coming of the Lord and to hear again the “crying out” of the Church who announces the coming of the same Lord, now and at his final coming. It is an invitation to respond anew to the Lord who comes to us in the Scriptures and the sacraments, who is revealed to us in prayer and the liturgy.

Perhaps, this Advent, the Church cries out to us to recommit ourselves to this appreciation, to eagerly “await these things” with fresh faith each week, to marvel anew that “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed” by Christ’s coming in every Eucharist, to anticipate and so “prepare the way of the Lord.”

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SHAWN REEVES has served as the director of religious education at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center in Champaign since 2001. He and his family are members of St. Malachy Parish in Rantoul.

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