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Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Advent Cycle A (2010) – Repent!

December 7, 2010

Gospel reading is here (but not yet…do y’all listen? This is what delays my uploads!).

Homily audio is here (again, it’s slightly different from the written; I’d be interested in any comments – Later.  I’ll post it later).


“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” That’s what John the Baptist told the people who heard him preaching in the desert in Judea. “Repent! The Kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

This kind of message clashes with the world around us, doesn’t it? The world outside these walls is consumed with…well, consuming. “Christmas is coming! Come on, buy your “stuff” before it’s too late! Your Christmas cards need to go out! Have you started planning that Christmas party yet? How’s your credit? Don’t worry about your credit…just buy it!”

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that there’s something wrong with planning to get things done on time, or with buying gifts, or planning get-togethers, or generally being busy at this time of the year. The problems start when the buying and partying and being busy become the only thing. If that happens, we risk forgetting what’s coming…who’s coming.

John the Baptist shouts, “REPENT!” But…repent of what?

He says that the kingdom of heaven is “at hand”. When and where, exactly, is “at hand”? And how do we get there?
Move I

John the Baptist is a strange figure as described in this Gospel. Matthew is pointing us toward the prophet Elijah; this is important because the people of Israel were expecting the return of Elijah as a prelude to the coming of the Messiah! Matthew, the Gospel writer, explicitly ties John the Baptist to Isaiah’s prophesy, and tells us that John is the “voice of one crying out in the desert”. All of this points us to Jesus as the Messiah, in a way that any Jew of Jesus’ would understand.

What was John doing in the desert? He was baptizing people “in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins”. John was preaching repentance, and people were flocking to him!

But his choicest words in this Gospel passage are reserved for the Pharisees and Sadducees; he challenges them to show proof of their repentance by changing their ways. Then he threatens them with eternal punishment if they fail!

Move II

Our circumstances are radically different from those of the Jews of Jesus’ time. They were oppressed; we live in freedom. By modern standards, they were poor; even the poor in our society are better off than they were. Most of us don’t walk around in fear that the government will just decide one day to kill us off; the Romans could just kill them in the street, and no one would care. Compared to them, we live pretty benign existences, don’t we?

One drawback to not living under pressure is that it can make faith an optional part of our lives. When you’re living in fear of death, God is an ever-present part of one’s thoughts; when Christians stopped being persecuted they kind of let that focus on God slip just a bit.

But still, we show up for Mass. And we send our kids to PRE, or to Catholic school, to reinforce the faith we teach them at home. We make sure our kids complete the Sacraments of Initiation, and then we do our best to get them to Mass even after they don’t have to show up.

We ourselves frequent the sacraments. We receive the Eucharist; we get anointed when we’re sick; We go to confession. We try our best to understand why we’re here. In many ways, we’re just like the people who traveled out into the desert to be baptized by John.

Move III

But in some other ways, brothers and sisters, we risk falling in with the Pharisees. And our risk is, perhaps, greatest during this season of the year, when we’re super busy, but when we should be most focused on Christ.

The coming of Jesus that we’re focused on in these early weeks of Advent is not His coming as an infant; as important as that event is, it is not the event that saves us. John’s message is that Jesus is coming as King, that He’s coming as Judge. And if we don’t repent, we risk losing everything!

Repent of what? Well…most of us aren’t wallowing in sin. But none of us is perfect. And all of us fall into sin on occasion. The repentance John is preaching covers everything in our lives; it covers the TV shows and movies we allow into our homes; it covers the books and magazines we read; and it covers the way we relate to our spouses, our children, and our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. If any of those things leads us away from God, then it must be put aside.

And it covers all our holiday revelry. Jesus’ birthday is an occasion for celebration. But we must not lose sight of what’s most important: Our eternal salvation.


“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” Repent, for Jesus is coming! Be better than we are, because a new order of things is being put in place by Christ!

This is the message of Advent. All that hubbub outside of here is OK; but it misses the point. We have to get it, that the Kingdom of heaven is already here; we experience it every time we turn the things of the world upside down, so that it resembles Isaiah’s description in our first reading. We see the Kingdom of heaven we serve the poor, instead of making them serve us. The Kingdom of heaven is here when we act selflessly instead of clinging to our “stuff”. The kingdom of heaven is here, every time we act justly, every time we show mercy; It’s already here, every time we let our attitude be like Christ’s.

Let’s party! But let’s pray, too. Have fun, but let’s remember that the gifts we have, and the gifts we give, are ultimately from God, and that they need to serve God’s purposes. And let’s examine our lives: where’s the “good fruit” that shows our repentance?

Because…the kingdom of heaven…is at hand.

From → Homilies

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