Second Sunday of Advent by Sister Ana

2 sunday adventAdvent has always been a great time of comfort for me.  I live in the United States in relative safety, with ample food and the liberty of a citizen of this country. For many around the world though, perhaps the readings for the Second Sunday of Advent will be met with bewilderment and even skepticism.  We have seen horrible things happen this year in the name of religion with Christians as the target.  Many people suffer because of religious prejudice and my comments are not in any way meant to diminish anyone’s suffering.  This year though, I think many Christians have been shaken out of their complacency as I admit I have been because of the brutal attacks on Christians, especially planned attacks on the children. New meanings permeate my being as I pray with these readings while recalling vivid images from news broadcasts throughout this year.  My heart yearns for the things promised by God.  God promises comfort, salvation, truth, peace and justice and, the forgiveness of sins.  In my prayer with the word of God, I always ask, “What is God asking of me?”  The answers don’t come so easily this year. “A voice cries out; in the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord”.  This quote stands out prominently.  It comes from both Isaiah and from John the Baptist in the Gospel of Mark.  In Isaiah’s time, shortly before 565 bce, the people were under Babylonian attack.  Eventually they lost the war, the city fell to Babylon and the people were exiled from the land and the city.  In John the Baptist’s time, the people were living under Roman rule and by the time Mark’s gospel was written, (Mark’s gospel is thought to be written in 70 ce just at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.), the city of Jerusalem was under siege by Rome.  For the people of both times the world must have felt like it was coming to an end.  The irony with both situations is that as the prophets encourage people to “Prepare the way of the Lord” the end result is disaster. Mark offers a clue as to what God is really looking for as we “prepare the way of the Lord”.  Mark tells us that people went out to John the Baptist to confess their sins and were baptized. What is God asking of me as I prepare the way of the Lord?  Perhaps it is as simple as this; I must confess my sins and seek God’s mercy.  Sin is a communal problem.  My sins affect everyone.  As a Benedictine Sister, I believe that my/our prayer has efficacy for the whole world.  If prayer has efficacy then, sin must carry some ramifications on a world level.   Now I am touching the uncomfortable, the wilderness place to which I DO NOT like to go. Where am I complacent?  Where am I complicit?  Where do I hold violence higher than comfort, justice, truth and peace?   What about forgiveness?  Well, forgiveness always leaves something undone, like responsibility—right?   In order to confess my sins, I must see my sins.  And sin, sin is not just about me.  Ouch! But God does not leave us there.  Prepare the way of the Lord.  Confess your sins and there is forgiveness with nothing undone.  God tells the people though Isaiah, “You have received expiation for your sins.”  And John proclaims, “One mightier than I is coming after me.I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” We have hope.  But that hope comes at a price, the price of preparation, the price of knowing my sinfulness and its effects on the world.  Preparing the Way of the Lord includes God’s mercy.  I long for God to fulfill those promises of comfort, justice, truth, peace and forgiveness.  What God is asking of me is that I prepare the way—for my good and for the good of the world. Ana Cloughly, OSB

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