The Way to Go Home, an Advent Reflection

2nd Sunday of Advent, Year C

Scripture Reading:

  • First Reading: Bar 5:1-9
  • Responsorial Psalm: Ps 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6
  • Second Reading: Phil 1:4-6, 8-11
  • Gospel: Lk 3:1-6

If the first week of Advent speaks about the coming of our Lord, in this second week, the Church proclaims how this coming will take place, and how it will be our homecoming  as well.

The first reading was from the Prophet Baruch which took place in exile. The people have been in exile in Babylon, and Baruch proclaim a consolation that will come from the Lord.

Up, Jerusalem! stand upon the heights;
look to the east and see your children
gathered from the east and the west
at the word of the Holy One,
rejoicing that they are remembered by God.

What is the cause of this rejoicing?  Baruch tell us that they will go home to their homeland one day.

Led away on foot by their enemies they left you:
but God will bring them back to you

There were two movements in that last sentence that we read. The first one was when the Israelites were led away from their homeland to exile, and they are led away “on foot” by their “enemies”. But now, they will be brought “back”, and by who? by God!

In fact, God promised how this is going to happen.

For God has ordered that every high mountain and the everlasting hills be made low and the valleys filled up, to make level ground,

And this brings us to the Gospel reading, to John the Baptist. Luke introduced John in this way.

the word of God came to John the son of Zechari′ah in the wilderness; and he went into all the region about the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be brought low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways shall be made smooth;
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be brought low. The prophecy of Baruch was being fulfilled. This is a time of consolation. God is coming to bring back the Israelites. But this is the strange part: during the time of John the Baptist, the Israelites were already back from exile. So in what way was the prophecy being fulfilled?

Luke was describing another exile and exodus. In fact, the exile and exodus of the Israelites were just a prefigurement of this one exile and exodus. This one exile and exodus is one of a spiritual nature. Sin separates us from God, and this is a more grievous exile! But God promise a consolation, a salvation. He will come and save his people, he will bring us back. It is for this reason that John gave his life to

Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.

John proclaimed that not only we will be brought back and saved, but first, God will come. God is coming and visiting us! The way that John was preparing was not just a way for the people to return to, not only the way for another exodus, but the way of the Lord, where “his paths” is being prepared. This is the path that God himself will walk on earth. This Way is the way of the Lord because God himself will walk in this Way.

This brings to mind of what Jesus himself said,

I am the Way …

John, in fact, was preparing for the coming of Jesus, and it is in Jesus that God himself walks here on earth to visit his people. But he not only came to visit us, he came to dwell with us and bring us home. God has shown us the way to go home in Jesus.

I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Jesus is our way to go home.

John’s whole life was for this purpose. His whole life was to prepare the Way. But how can we enter the Way? Luke answered it through John the Baptist too.

the word of God came to John […] preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

John preached a baptism of repentance. Repentance is the door to enter into the Way. Repentance opens the Door of Mercy that allows God to come and visit us, and allows God to bring us home. Repentance is the way we should prepare for the coming of Our Lord, and of our own homecoming.

But what does repentance consists of? It is in changing our life to live a life of love as Christ himself lives. St. Paul in the second reading prayed

And this is my prayer:
that your love may increase ever more and more

so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,
filled with the fruit of righteousness

One thing we can learn to realize is that our love is just a tiny little love. God has planted the seed of this eternal life, and we are called to bear fruit of this harvest by bearing fruits of love. But life can be too distracting, and we stop living in love, but simply living for ourselves. We became selfish, pursue our own dreams and desire, put pleasures above all things. But we are called to “repent”, to turn back, and to live a life of love the way Christ lived it. And we only need to look at the Cross to learn what kind of love we are all called to be. How far we have fallen, and yet how high we have been called. But there is always hope, and our hope comes from Christ. St. Paul himself said,

I am confident of this,
that the one who began a good work in you
will continue to complete it
until the day of Christ Jesus.

 The one who began… will complete it. God will complete what he has sown in our life. We can hope, because God is faithful.

In fact, one of the most beautiful hope during this liturgy is one of the verse in the responsorial Psalm.

They go out, they go out, full of tears,
  carrying seed for the sowing:
they come back, they come back, full of song,
  carrying their sheaves.
This psalm speaks about the pain when the Israelites went out full of tears to the Exile, but it promises a time when they will come back, full of song. The hope and the promise that Baruch himself prophesied. But one of the most beautiful image in this psalm was that as they go out, they “carry seed for the sowing”, and when they come back, they come back “carrying their sheaves”.
Their time in exile was for a purpose… they carry seed for the sowing. It is during those time in exile they carry the seed that will grow into a harvest. It was during this exile that the Israelites returned to their covenant with God. This harvest is what they bring back home from their exile to their homeland.
We too in life face struggles and difficulties, but God promised us that it is not for nothing. As we face and enter into all those trials, we carry seed for the sowing. It is during those time that the seed grows into a harvest. And there will be a time for the harvest. A time when God will come and visit us, a time when the work that He has began will be completed, a time of rejoicing and full of song, a time for our homecoming. This is the time that we are waiting for in this Advent, and we can begin preparing for this time, growing our seed, by what John the Baptist told us to do, … repent.
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