2ND SUNDAY OF ADVENT YEAR C DECEMBER 5, 2021 (R. 1: Baruch 5: 1-9; Psalm 126: 1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6; R. 2: Philippians 1: 4-6, 8-11; Gospel: Luke 3: 1-6)
FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
A few months after my arrival in San Diego, I went to a Barbershop to have my first haircut. When I got to the shop, I discovered that the barber on duty could only speak Spanish. The only word I knew in Spanish then was, “sí,” which means, “yes.” So, with the aid of some broken English, pictures, and hand gestures, I explained to the barber, the style of haircut I wanted. He would not let me finish my explanation, he kept saying “sí, sí, sí” and nodding in affirmation, and then he motioned for me to sit down. I sat down, and faced the mirror, hoping that during the barbing, if he was going off limit, I would be able to sound the alarm. But shortly before he started cutting my hair, he gently turned me away from the mirror, and made me to face the television. I thought that from time to time he would turn me to the mirror to see the job in progress. Before I could realize it, I was carried away by the soccer match on the television and I forgot that I was having a haircut. Eventually, when he turned me around from the television to face the mirror, I discovered I had no hair left on my head. I felt like crying, but I remembered that in Africa, men don’t cry.
My dearly beloved in Christ, today is the Second Sunday of Advent. The season of Advent is easily misunderstood and misused outside the Church. In our places of work, schools, and homes, people have already started organizing parties termed, “Christmas/End of the Year Parties.” There is a lot of selling and buying going on in the name of “Christmas Sales.” With such celebrations, it is very easy to forget the mood of the season. Advent is not Christmas; Advent has its own special mood; advent has its own special purpose. Advent is like Lent in many ways. It is a time of preparation, a time of penitence; that is why we use the same liturgical color (purple) for both seasons.
My infamous Barbershop experience happened in December during the season of advent, so that experience became my Advent message. Many Christians do what I did at the barbershop; instead of looking at myself in the mirror, and paying attention to what brought me to the shop, I was distracted by the television, and I lost all of my hair. Similarly, many Christians are distracted in this season by parties, and the commercialization of the season, and so forget the Reason for the Season.
In today’s gospel passage, John the Baptist invites us to join him in the desert to prepare the way of the Lord. He invites us to the desert to keep us away from all the distractions that prevent us from noticing the Reason for the Season. The desert reminds us of our insufficiency and our dependence on God and on one another. We tend to fight against and resent dependence on God and on one another, we want to be self-sufficient and independent. It began all the way from the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were excited when the serpent told them that eating the forbidden fruit would give them the knowledge of good and evil, as such they would no longer depend on God to teach them, they would decide for themselves what is good and what is evil. That desire eventually led to the fall of humanity. Have you ever tried to watch an eleven-month-old baby learning to walk? When you try to offer some help, the baby would usually push your helping hand away, probably saying, “Leave me alone, I got this, I can do it without you!”
A desert is a place of lack, a place of insufficient resources, and a place in need. A desert reminds us of our insufficiency and our need for God. Similarly, Advent is a new beginning that reminds us of our inadequacy and our need for the Savior who is born at Christmas. St Paul in the second reading challenges us to “To discern what is of value, so that [we] may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.” No one is created to be self-sufficient. We need God, and we need one another.
A desert also reminds us of the journey of the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt to the freedom of the Promised Land. In the desert, they experienced the mighty power of God. There were no construction companies to build a bridge, but the power of God gave them passage through the sea. They did not plant, they did not harvest, but they had food to eat and water to drink. This story calls us also to reflect on the special ways that God intervenes in our lives. There is the temptation to think that we succeed because we are smart, but the Book of Psalms reminds us that “Our help comes from God” (Psalm 124:8), and “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain” (Psalm 127:1).
My dearly beloved in Christ, welcome to the desert; a place that keeps us away from distractions, a place that reminds us of the Reason for the Season; a place that builds our trust in God. What a great opportunity, let us make the best of it while it lasts. May our trust in God never put us to shame until we come to our heavenly inheritance, through Christ our Lord. Amen.