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Godzdogz

The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Built on the four pillars of our Dominican life – preaching, prayer, study, and community – Godzdogz offers many resources for exploring the Catholic Faith today.
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Second Sunday of Advent: Be prepared

Sunday, December 04, 2011
Readings: Isaiah 40: 1-5, 9-11; Psalm 85; 2 Peter 3: 8-14; Mark 1: 1-8

My brother is getting married next year
. The preparations are already well under way and it’s going to be a wonderful event. Any big day like that takes a lot of hard work beforehand – things don’t just organise themselves! And that’s what this Sunday’s readings are about. Something wonderful is about to happen – the coming of our saviour, no less, and St Mark wastes no time getting to the point: this is ‘the good news about Jesus Christ, the Son of God’ (Mk.1:1).

The news is almost too good for us, and our hardened hearts will struggle to believe it. ‘Prepare the way of the Lord!’ Unless we prepare, we’ll miss the party. John the Baptiser is the ‘herald of good tidings’ that Isaiah (40:3) and Malachi (3:1) had foretold. He tells us,‘Repent!’, announcing a gospel of hope, not of doom. God sends his messenger saying, ‘Comfort, comfort my people,’ for the Messiah comes to forgive all our sins (Is. 40:1-2).

But is there not something daunting, perhaps even terrifying, about the image of the Messiah’s triumphal arrival? After all, John the Baptiser is sent to ‘make straight in the desert a highway for our God’, when the mountains will be laid low, the valleys filled in, in what sounds like a great cataclysm. This will be a great levelling, the moment of truth, when ‘the glory of the Lord shall be revealed…with might’. What if we are not ready? What will we do, or where will we go to hide?

Don't worry, Isaiah is clear that this is ‘good tidings’ and there is nothing to fear. God comes with mercy and compassion,with reward and recompense, to feed his vulnerable flock, gather the lost lambs, and gently lead them to their rest (Is.40:11). In our second reading, too, St Peter reassures us that God is patient with our weakness and disobedience, ‘not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance’ (2 Pet. 3:9). Nevertheless, we cannot be complacent, but must strive for holiness and godliness; in other words, we must be prepared.

So what will be our response? We are told that all Judaea and all Jerusalem went out to the desert to hear John – a mass movement of so many people disillusioned with the false seductions of a society that idolises power and wealth, a comfortable but inauthentic life. The people thirsted for God, the only true Comforter, and they wanted to be baptised by John to wash their sins away and start anew. But why should we comfortable and sophisticated citizens of the 21st century bother to listen to John’s message today? His desert diet doesn’t meet the latest government recommendations, and his poor attire is embarrassingly déclassé

Yet John is authentic; he speaks the truth. And the truth is what he points towards: ‘After me comes he who is mightier than I, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptised you with water; but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit’ (Mk. 1:7). John is only the herald, the ‘friend of the bridegroom’ (John 3:29); but now we can rejoice, because the true Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is with us. So, Advent is a time to ‘wait in joyful hope’, happy that Christ has already come to us, redeemed us, and will return in glory: we just have to be holy, be godly, be prepared.

Matthew Jarvis

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