Reflections on the Readings
Second Sunday of Advent - December 7, 2014 - Year B
Jesus and the Future
Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be kindled and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire! But according to his promise we wait for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:11-13)
John the Baptist announces that in Jesus the future is full of promise and blessing. "One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals," says John. These words must have been thrilling to hear the first time John's voice pierced the air and set the leaves of the trees to clapping their hands. (Isaiah 55:12)
Imagine being one of those coming up out of the Jordan and hearing John explain how his baptism is the doorway to even more. He says to his followers, "I have baptized you with water, he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
This mighty voice of one crying in the wilderness preached with the insight of a prophet; a prophet much like Elijah whom he resembled in both speech and appearance. He understood that what he did mattered, and that the future he was ushering in has its beginning and conclusion in the 'One mightier than I.'
John urged those who came to him to receive his baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And throngs of people did. They came from Jerusalem and from the countryside of Judea. Moms and dads and children and old people and little people and babies and the sick and the dying came to confess their sins in the baptismal waters of the Jordan. John's baptism was a powerful statement about the future and how to prepare for God's presence, that is, the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
John's message of promise brought comfort and renewal to all who received his words. Called from his mother's womb to be a prophet of hope, John comforted the people God with the promise of forgiveness and restoration like we hear from the passage in Isaiah today:
"Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated; indeed, she has received from the hand of the Lord double for all her sins."
These words were first proclaimed to bring hope and the promise of restoration to Israel's exiled multitudes in Babylon about 550 BC. John likewise thundered the message at the dawn of a new era, "Here is your God! Here comes with power the Lord God…Like a shepherd he feeds his flock, in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care."
Hearing these words in this season of Advent, a time of expectation, reminds us again that the future is now. Now are we to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Now are we to live and work and play under the influence of the new wine of the Holy Spirit. As we wait patiently for the celebration of the birth of Christ we must also, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, be patient for the second coming of our Lord. What we must never forget, as St Peter tells us today, is that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like one day. The Lord is not delaying his promise of reunion with us. But he's being patient with us, not wishing that any one of us should perish.
So the day of the Lord will come. He may come at morning, noon, or night. But when he comes, he will come like a thief, and everyone and everything will be open and laid bare to the eyes of him with whom we have to do. (Hebrews 4:13) But rather than be afraid and terrified we are admonished to understand what sort of persons we ought to be, living everyday in holiness and devotion, waiting for and even earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God. For we, according to his promise await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since we await these things, be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace. Amen.
Dennis Hankins, a Catholic Evangelist, is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN. Prior to uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. E-mail Dennis at: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @dshankins or visit him at: www.dennishankins.com