First Reading: Is 40:1-5. 9-11; Psalm: 85. R. v. 8; Second Reading: 2 Pt 3:8-14; Gospel: Mk 1:1-8



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As we mark the second Sunday of advent today, there is a resonating theme that cuts across the liturgical readings of today: New Beginning. What is new beginning? To adequately answer this question, we may have to ask; “But why do we have to begin anew?” To start all over again suggests there was something missing on our previous script. Something very important that we overlooked, misused or abused that landed us in a place we rather not want to be. Something regretful but amendable. So, new beginning is not just about starting afresh. It is purposely about change; a beginning to change, with the intention not to repeat the error of the past.

Our first reading of today is much more about new beginning than it is about the restoration or consolation of Israel. Around 722 BCE and 587 BCE, the two kingdoms of ancient Israel (Israel and Judah) were taking into captivity by the Assyrians and Babylonians respectively consequent to their unfaithfulness to their covenant with Yahweh. After several years on exile, Deutero-Isaiah (a second unnamed prophet after the prophet Isaiah) prophesied the return of Israel from their captors. He interpreted the approaching end to their exile as a sign of God’s forgiveness and their anticipated home coming as a gift of God’s reconciliation. This home coming was a return to begin anew as their former ways only led them to suffering and destruction. So, on the part of Israel, to avoid another exilic punishment; they would have to repent of their sins and seek the face of God – New beginning.

In the gospel of today, the sudden appearance of John the Baptist from the wilderness caused a great stir. The appearance of John with his attire was very symbolic and evocative. Malachi, the last biblical prophet of the Old Testament prophesied that Elijah would appear before the coming of the Messiah: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.” (Mal 4:5). John’s appearance was strikingly similar to the prophet Elijah. “Elijah wore a garment of haircloth, with a girdle of leather about his loins.” (2Kgs 1:8). “John was clothed with carmel’s hair, and had a leather girdle around his waist . . .” (Mk 1:6). And Jesus would later say of John; “he is Elijah who is to come.” (Mt 11:14).

The appearance of John therefore signalled the beginning of a new era. John came to usher in Christ, the long awaited Messiah. He appeared from the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. “And there went out to him all the country of Judea, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were baptised by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.” (Mk 1:5). John’s call for repentance is not just about being sorry for the past sins but having a complete change of heart. Repentance is a complete turnaround. It is a decisive redirection of one’s whole life. It is a call to new beginning.

In our second reading of today, taking from the second letter of St Peter, we hear that a thousand years is like a day before the Lord. St Peter warns that “The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing towards you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Pt 3:9). The promise of Christ that he would come again in the clouds of heaven may be delayed; but it becomes an opportunity for us to turn a new leaf before the day of the Lord comes. If our yesterday was a failure, we can begin anew today. ‘Let us think of the Lord’s patience as an opportunity for us to be saved. (2 Pt 3:15).

Obviously, we can say that this second Sunday of advent is about the sound of new beginning. Deutero-Isaiah prophesies this. John the Baptist, the advent prophet calls for it. And St Peter urges us to seize the moment. So, what areas of our life need a change or a new beginning as we await the coming of Christ? A deep and sincere reflection will help us unearth them.

Every second Sunday of advent comes with the ritual of lighting the second advent purple candle. This candle is called the ‘Bethlehem candle.’ It reminds us of the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem where Christ would eventually be born. This candle symbolises ‘Faith.’ So perhaps, the Lord wants us to reflect on our faith life to see if the fire of faith still burns within us. John said; ‘I have baptised you with water; but he who comes after me will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’ (Mk 1:8). We all received the fire of the Holy Spirit at our baptism and confirmation. Are we still cooperating with the Spirit to keep this fire of faith burning?

What can we say about our prayer life? Is it alive or dead? Do we give God the first place in our lives especially on Sundays and other holy days of obligation?  Do we even still go to Church? How about the sacraments? When was the last time we confessed? When was the last time we received the Holy Eucharist? Do we receive the Eucharist worthily? Have you blessed your marriage? Are your kids baptised? Do you create time to share the Word of God and to pray with your family? What spiritual exercise can you boast your child learnt from you? How much do we love? How much do we give? How much do we forgive? Is the light of faith still burning within us? If we are found wanting in any of these, we can reignite our faith light and begin anew. This is the blessing of today – the opportunity for new beginnings.  


Lord Jesus, we acknowledge our sins and disobedience. We repent of them and return to you today to begin anew. Help us by your grace not to fall away again from you. Amen.


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