BY DAVID MARION
2nd Sunday of Advent Baruch5:1-9; Philippians 1:4-6,8-11; Luke 3:1-6 GOOD NEWS is in the air this Sunday. Our first reading is full of it. The reading comes from the book of Baruch, which was not part of the Hebrew Bible.
Baruch, about the year 582BC, tells his fellow exiles to cheer up. The time is going to come for the journey home. God will not forget his people. Meanwhile they are to obey their captors and even to pray for them, especially for King Nebuchadnezzar. By giving him long service they will win favour and be allowed to go home.
This is a joyful reading, full of the awareness of the power of God and of the conviction that good times will come again. It was probably chosen for today because of the vivid description of hills being flattened and valleys being filled in to make a straight road. The same image is used by John the Baptist as reported by St Luke in today's gospel.
Luke anchors the gospel story of the Baptist firmly into very real history. John appears at a definite date, "In the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar's reign..." God will return not just for one people. "All mankind" will see the salvation of God.
There is a precondition and that is repentance for sins, both personal and collective. Neither Baruch nor John preached a message simply of personal salvation. A whole people had turned away from God. Now God would return to bring home a repentant people. Not only will individuals return to God but a new society is on its way.
A world of greed, violence, pride and self sufficiency will have to give way to one of justice, peace, sharing and forgiveness. It is a message with as much point today as ever it had.
Thomas Merton once wrote a short poem which started: "Into this world this demented inn in which there is no room for him at all Christ came uninvited."
For many people the idea of a new society is utopian illusion. The nearer many get to God's providence is the lottery finger coming down out of heaven on our television screens, promising undreampt of riches. Advent is a reminder of a very different kind of coming. God is on his way.
St Paul is full of the same conviction. The promises made by Baruch and John have been fulfilled but not in the way expected. The Messiah has come and the foundations of a new kingdom are now being laid. The aim set before us is not only of increasing love for one another but "perfect goodness". Now there is a challenge for Christmas.
The Week Ahead 2nd Sunday of Advent Divine Office Week 2
Monday 8th: The Immaculate Conception
Gen3:9-15,20; Eph 1:3-6,11-12; Lk 1:26-38 Tuesday 9th: Isa 40:1-11; Mt 18:12-14 Wedn'day 10th: Isa 40:25-31; Mt 11:18-30 Thursday 1 lth:Isa 41:13-20; Mt 11:11-15
Friday 12th:Isa 48:17-19; Mt 11:16-19 Saturday 13th: S Lucy Ecclus 48:1-4,9-11; Mt 17:10-13 Sunday 14th: 3rd Sunday of Advent Zeph 3:14-18, Isa 12:2-6; Phil 4:4-7; Lk 3:10— 18
Divine Office Week 3