2nd Sunday of Advent Year A

Picture shows snow in Israel's Golan Heights and thawed water flowing towards Galilee.

Second Sunday of Advent Year A

This week we all have a deeper appreciation of the power of nature to bring everything to a standstill. We only have to look out our windows at the snow and ice. Our televisions show us the hazards and problems associated with the cold weather. We have come to realise that we are not that well equipped in Ireland to deal with a hard freeze, and we have to be so careful on our roads and event the pavement.

It makes us wonder, how do people cope in colder climates? Did Jesus ever see snow? It is hard to know for certain if Jesus may have ever touched snow, or played in it with his childhood friends but certainly He saw it in the distance from the Sea of Galilee in wintertime.

On a recent visit to the Holy Land, I learned that the country of Israel is dependent on snow each year to replenish much needed fresh-water. It thaws and melts and flows from the mountains in the north of the country straight into the Sea of Galilee and on to the River Jordan. Besides the strategic location of the mountains known as the Golan Heights, there is something sacred about this fresh flowing water for the Jews as it is considered to have come straight from God, and was not contaminated by human hands. It was this understanding of the water of the Jordan River that John used to encourage repentance and the immersion into the water with the confession of sins. This was done to ensure that the Jewish people were in a state of readiness to receive their long-awaited Messiah. They were to wash themselves clean, externally and internally.

John urges sincere repentance, and now that the opportunity is ours. We must be sincere. It must not be outward show and empty ritual as it was for the insincere Pharisees and Sadducees. It must be accompanied too by appropriate fruit – charity, forgiveness, generous self-giving, purity of mind, attitude and disposition towards our neighbor, almsgiving, self-forgetfulness with our time and talents. John was readying the people for Jesus. For us, this state of readiness is a state of grace, when we washed clean anew in the sacrament of Reconciliation.

Today 2000 years later John’s voice of repentance is proclaimed in every Catholic Church throughout the world, urging repentance as we prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas, and reminding us too of His Second Coming, where He will come to judge the living and the dead. John uses graphic imagery. Ultimately we will be one thing or another – a fruit-bearing tree or wheat bearing the proper fruit at the appropriate time, or a fruitless tree or chaff that is useless. And ultimately too we will be in one place or the other, finding a place in the barn of heaven or cast out into the fire that will never go out, in the fires of hell.
As three weeks remain and the Christmas shopping list is seen to, what better present to give Jesus as we prepare at Christmas – which after all is His birthday – than to give ourselves over to the Lord’s mercy and present Him on Christmas Day with a clean human heart.

‘We wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ’.

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