Repent, Remain Alert: Your Consolation is at Hand!

Reflecions for Advent are by Bishop Kenneth Richards, Bishop of St. John’s-Basseterre

Richards - newSecond Sunday of Advent – 2014 – 7th December 2014

The Second of Advent continues the theme of the general drawing near of Our Lord who accomplishes our Salvation. The requirement is that the faithful keep watch, remain alert and not put down their guard.  The dimension added to our waiting with expectation in this week’s Liturgy, is that we must not be discouraged as we wait.

The Scripture Reading from Isaiah (40:1-5, 9-11), provides the context of Israel’s return from exile for our deliberation.  The returning Israelites were psychologically defeated in spirit because of their long exile. They were despondent as they now returned to a devastated city and Temple. And, to add to their despondency in the face of the devastation around them, they were personally distressed because they were very much aware of their guilt in turning from their Lord and His Precepts; which caused the calamity that befell them.

Hence, the words of hope from The Lord: Console my people, console them, says your God. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem and call to her that her time of service is ended, that her sin is atoned for, that she has received from the hand of the Lord double punishment for all her crimes  (Is 40:1-2).

In the Reading from the Gospel of Mark (1:1-8), John the Baptist, the Joyful Messenger of hope, announces that preparation is to be made to receive the God of Salvation, the God who grants consolation.  John the Baptist points out the practical step that must be taken by those who are to be consoled and saved.  They must undergo the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of their sins.  For he knew that all the obstacles to the entrance and reception of The Lord must be removed.  All that overshadow and undermine the experience of The Lord’s Glorious Presence must be gotten rid of. “Make a straight highway for our God…Let every valley be filled in, every mountain and hill be laid low…then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all mankind shall see it…!

Hence, the instruction we receive from today’s reading from the Second Letter of St. Peter, (3:8-14), is a timely reminder for each of us to nurture and strive for a holy and saintly life while waiting to receive Our Lord, who comes, who makes His return to His people. Therefore, the apparently long waiting period must be viewed as an opportunity allowing for ongoing personal conversion and virtuous living so that none is lost, at The Lord’s return.

Therefore, let each of us give due consideration to the warning against complacency and being lax during the period of waiting the Lord’s arrival.  In addition, the guilt and shame resulting from acknowledgement of our human failings must not be allowed to become a burden leading us to despair. For Our Lord offers us reason to trust and hope that He has merciful regard for each of us, His creatures: “He promises peace to His people, His faithful servants, but let them not return to their foolish ways” (Ps 85:9).

The conscientious response response required of us, in this light, is a sincere and practical act of penitence, similar to those persons who made their way to John the Baptist and confessed their sins. So, aware of the penitential character of the Advent Season, let each of us make time for the Sacrament of Confession, as a practical sign of our hope in the consolation that Our Lord offers to the faithful and just who await His second coming!

Let us pray:

Have mercy on me, O Lord

In Your compassion grant me your salvation!

Help me never to doubt your saving help!

May I grow in awareness of you love and consolation,

So I may always humbly submit to you with a contrite heart.

And, through the Sacrament of Confession,

grant me the grace to always strive to live a holy and saintly life.

For your glory and my salvation. Amen!