The Second Week
The Second and Third Sundays of Advent urge us to spend time in the “wilderness,” attentive to the wisdom of John the Baptist. On both Sundays, Second Isaiah, a prophet of the Babylonian exile, speaks again, now in the Gospel passages, shaping the essential message of each. From Isaiah 40 comes the gospels’ image of John’s vocation: “A voice crying in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord!’ ” Might this wilderness be another symbol of the darkness of our First Week? How does the Baptist guide us through it? Both evangelists, Mark and John, highlight the humility of this man, who so freely recognizes and proclaims the one who will come after him, whose sandal thong he is unworthy to untie. Around this core, Mark and John will each create for us an encounter with John the Baptist.
On the Second Sunday, Mark paints a vibrant picture of a stark prophet of repentance that seeks forgiveness. His appeal is incredible! Mark summons us to join that crowd “from the whole Judean countryside (who) were going out to meet him.” How do we come to this encounter?
The Baptist focuses our attention on The One whom he serves. Once again, the other two readings qualify what could be a fierce portrait. The longer passage from Isaiah 40, which is the first reading for this Sunday, might be heard as assuring us that the Baptist’s call is really all about our response to the compassionate and loving God, who insists, “comfort, O comfort my people … speak tenderly” [vv.1-2], the God who “will gather the lambs in his arms and gently lead the mother sheep” [v. 11]. On the strength of this encounter, we too are missioned to recognize and proclaim: “Here is your God!” [vs. 9], indeed this is our God! In 2 Peter, the time has come for repentance, for patience, and for seeking peace – the way of holiness. This is the work of the encounter in the wilderness.
Diane Willey, nds