Reflections on the Readings
Second Sunday of Advent - December 4, 2011 - Year B
By Dennis S. Hankins
According To His Promise
But according to his promise we wait for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. - 2 Peter 3:13
Patience and perseverance, and a reason for hope, and the supremacy of love eternal is the message of the readings for today. Even the cosmic fire in the second reading is a purifying fire - not a destructive fire in the nuclear bomb sense but rather a fire that leaves new heavens and a new earth in its wake.
We are a people who are heirs to a promise. Peter recalls this promise by describing the long patience and love of God - a God not wishing that any should perish, but that all should find Him through repentance. Metanoia is a way of life for us - availing ourselves of the grace that is greater than all of our sins. We do this by making time for the sacrament of reconciliation. And in our confession the promise of love's pure justice is renewed in our hearts.
It is the warm justice of godly love we are called to emanate like living embers burning with the fire of the Holy Spirit. We are to be imitators of the divine love in all of our relationships. This high and holy calling is worthy of our consideration in this holy season of Advent. Advent truly is our opportunity to get the holy fire burning again in our hearts. Only four weeks are given for this so let's use them wisely and make room in our busy lives to rehearse again the great and precious promises of Christ. Let's use this time to find the grace that is proper to this season and keep Christ first always and always first at Christmas time.
Contrary to popular 'holiday' activity Advent is not pre-Christmas and Christmas is not over until Epiphany. The rhythm of life is not found in sales and more sales and then the sale of the year. Advent helps us to regain the true vision of Christ's coming into our world and how he will according to his promise come again. This promise strengthens us in the nasty now and now and makes us eager to be found at Christ's coming without spot or blemish or anything that is not worthy of the name Christian. Jesus makes everything and everyone new in his love and in that we find the peace the world can't give and the times cannot take a way!
Advent reminds us that we are a pilgrim people; this world is not our home - here we have no lasting city. This was the revelation to Abraham and the faith he lived by. He saw with the clarity of faith the day of the Father's love gift to all the world - God's only Son given for the life of the world. (John 8:56) Abraham sojourned in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. Abraham looked forward to the heavenly fulfillment of God's promise of a home for him and for all the faithful of all times - a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. (Hebrews 13:14; 11:8-16)
The secularist vision is not so heavenly inspired. Human progress is believed possible without God or of any remembrance of him or of any reference to him. In this world view only the productive and strong are deemed valuable and worthy of a world made in the image of man. St. Peter calls them scoffers who follow their own passions and say, "Where is the promise of his coming?" (2 Peter 3:3 & 4)
In the first reading the people of Judah are coming from Babylonian captivity. The time of their exile is coming to a close and the promise of home is beating in their hearts. The prophet speaks of God as a loving and caring shepherd. A 'voice' cries out, "Prepare the way of the Lord. Make a straight path through the desert - a highway for our God! Every valley shall be filled in, and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all the people shall see it together. Here is your God - he comes with power and his reward is with him." How breathtaking this promise of a new day - of new heavens and a new earth!
As John the Baptist proclaimed, Jesus fills us with the Holy Spirit. Into us he pours the promise of his Spirit and under the shadow of the Almighty Spirit we find help in the day of trouble. But when the day of the Lord comes like a thief in the night then will the heavens pass away and the elements will be dissolved with fire and the earth and the works in it will be consumed. Then will the Spirit bear us up on his pinions and bring us to the promise of new heavens and a new earth - a place where the perfect love of God is the law - and the glory of the Lord is the light of that eternal day.
The promise of renewal and greater participation in the Spirit is the blessing of this Advent. As we come to this Holy Table let's reflect on paragraph 1405 of the Catechism: There is no surer pledge or clearer sign of this great hope in the new heavens and new earth "in which righteousness dwells," than the Eucharist. Every time this mystery is celebrated, "the work of our redemption is carried on and we "break the one bread that provides the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live for ever in Jesus Christ.
Let us live this Advent being renewed in his promise - the promise of new heavens and a new earth - perfect love - "Marana tha!" "Come, Lord Jesus!" Amen.
Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN. Prior to his uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org His website is: www.dennishankins.com