Saint Ignatius High School

Second Sunday of Advent

Originally published December 8, 2017

Second Sunday of Advent

First Reading: Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 85:9-14
Second Reading: 2nd Letter of St. Peter 3:8-14
Gospel: According to St. Mark 1:1-8

Over Thanksgiving break [in 2017], at the suggestion of our daughter Mary Kate, my wife Ann and I did a “little bit” of binge watching of a series on Netflix called Stranger Things.  As Mary Kate described it to us, Stranger Things is a sci-fi version of Freaks and Geeks, the brilliant one-season wonder that focused on the painful adolescent experiences of two groups of high school misfits.  Stranger Things takes the well-worn theme of teenage angst and introduces MK Ultra-style government shenanigans mixed with the Upside Down world of evil supernatural beings.

All of this gives the show a very apocalyptic ambience, an ambience that has an unnerving appeal in the dark recesses of the psyche of a lot of people.  We are fascinated by the apocalyptic and would love to know just when and how this world will eventually come to its conclusion.

It may seem odd to discuss such things during Advent, a time when we are preparing to celebrate the Nativity of Jesus.  What event could be less disturbing or apocalyptic than the Incarnation?  Yet, the coming of God into the world at that first Christmas was an event that did disturb the world and did usher in the apocalyptic.

Ignored by almost everyone is the Church’s other focus during Advent – looking ahead to the Second Coming of Christ at the end of time.  The waiting for Christ at Christmas is only the prelude to the waiting for Christ at the Parousia – a Greek term meaning “arrival” and used twenty-four times in the New Testament.  One of those times is in this weekend’s reading from the St. Peter’s 2nd Letter where the Rock upon which Christ built His Church states:

“But the day of the Lord will come (“parousian”) like a thief,
and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar
and the elements will be dissolved by fire,
and the earth and everything done on it will be found out.”

Because of the thematic tie between the first reading from Isaiah and the Gospel reading from St. Mark, focusing on the role of John the Baptist, it is easy to overlook the importance of this warning from St. Peter, but once our attention is drawn to it we see that the final coming of Christ into the world will indeed be both disturbing and apocalyptic.  The words of St. Peter do not cut the chill of winter like a children’s nativity play and a warm mug of hot chocolate; instead, they confront us with the cold, hard reality of the final judgment: “everything…will be found out.”

In that light, it is important to use these weeks of Advent to be ready not only for the coming of Christmas day, but also for the final coming of Christ into the world.  St. Peter tells us that the Lord “does not wish that any should perish” and “that all should come to repentance,” yet he also warns that “the Lord does not delay His promise.”  So our plan for Advent and beyond should be to “conduct [ourselves] in holiness and devotion” so that when Christ comes again – whether that be in a thousand years or one day – we can “be found without spot or blemish.”