2nd Sunday of Advent (Bar 5:1-9; Lk 3:1-6) “Adventus Rex” PDF Version
Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Advent, Year C (2018): Bar 5:1-9; Lk 3:1-6
The word Advent has its origins in the Latin word Adventus, which translates into the Arrival or the Coming of someone of great importance. In Ancient Rome, the term Adventus was used to describe the grandiose military processions that the Roman Emperors or Generals would make as they triumphantly marched into the Eternal City after a great military victory.
An Adventus was a spectacular affair: Row after row of Roman Legionaries marching down the streets of Rome to cheering crowds, chariots bearing the broken weapons of defeated armies and treasures that had been looted from the vanquished foes.
The Emperor or one of his trusted generals would ride in all the finery of their office, appearing like a god among men, basking in their glory and making known to all who beheld the Adventusthat greatness was in their midst and all should rejoice to behold their countenance.
The Christians of Rome beheld many such military processions and so in a very subversive yet brilliant way, they in time would celebrate the Adventusof Jesus Christ. But what a radically different celebration it was! In place of the Emperor of Rome or some great general was Jesus of Nazareth, who though He is king of all creation is remembered in every Advent season as being our long awaited saviour, who will return in all His power and glory at the End of All Things, but first arrived among us as a vulnerable, new born baby!
The Advent of Christians is lead not by a man decked in armour and damask finery, but a newborn swaddled in bands of cloth and kept safe in the arms of a young Jewish teenager, herself the Queen of Heaven and Earth but in every Advent season void of any regal adornments and found peacefully beside a manger.
And what army follows this baby king during His yearlyAdventus into the world? Not soldiers decked in armour and weapons of war, but an army of saints, among them martyrs, male and female, young and old, carrying palm branches to mark their victory and sacrifice, young maidens who offered their lives as religious sisters, priests, deacons, married men and women, and that whole Cloud of Witnesses we call the Communion of Saints from every walk of life, every nation, every culture and time and place.
Of them we could attribute those beautiful words of the Prophet Baruch who having been faithful to Christ to the end now have “put on the robe of righteousness that comes from God, [and] put on their heads the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting; for God will show their splendour everywhere under heaven. For God will give them evermore the name, “Righteous Peace, Godly glory.”
What a strange Adventusthis must have been to those who were so used to the Adventus of military power and might! Yet this is the Advent experience year after year, awaiting both that day Christ will return to be among us with all the saints and angels of heaven but in just a few weeks in the arrival of that new born child who is Christ the Lord.
Among those who march in the Adventus of our Saviour is a man who we could call one of Christ’s greatest generals. This man Christ said was the greatest born of woman yet is also the least in the Kingdom of God. He was and is a voice crying out in the wilderness, who made straight the path to Christ, who was for a while even thought to be the saviour so long awaited but who said of himself that He must decrease so that Christ could shine for all peoples and nations to see.
His name? John the Baptist, cousin of our Lord, fulfillment of every prophet, and the first to shed his blood for serving the Lamb of God whose blood had saved him from his sins and brought him true joy from that first moment John meet His Lord in womb of his mother Elizabeth.
Every Advent season implores us to take time to become reacquainted with St John the Baptist and to consider how we react to this most perplexing of men. Perhaps one will feel a bit like King Herod did about John, who enjoyed to listen to him speak but also ultimately put him death when John offered a harsh rebuke and condemnation of the adulterous affair this king was living, assuring that John would end his days in a dark dungeon before his severed head was presented for a corrupt court to see and rejoice.
I am not suggesting any of us would resort to killing St John the Baptist as Herod did, but rather that his person and mission can leave us feeling both inspired and offended if we take his words to heart and imagine that St John the Baptist is saying them directly to us. For example, how would we react if the Baptist rebuked us like he did the scribes and Pharisees for being among a brood of vipers who self-righteously judged others and refused to repent of their own sins?
Or what if John revealed to us that like Herod and his adulterous wife that I too am living my Christian life in such a way that there is a grave sin present that I will not let go of and seek to be forgiven for and is causing me to resent those who point this out to me, be it a parent, friend, priest, co-worker, etc?
We may not like this side of St John the Baptist but he and those who seek to follow in his footsteps act so out of love and their willingness to continually make straight the ways to Christ.
But so much of what St John the Baptist said and did in those few years in the Judean Wilderness also continue to inspire us even if they were said some 2000 years ago.
For example, how can our hearts not rejoice when we think of John pointing out Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world and rejoicing as he baptized Jesus and saw the Holy Spirit descend upon the earth, a dove of everlasting fire, accompanied by the voice of the Father affirming us that Jesus is His son and we too are His sons and daughters?!
St John the Baptist is one of those intercessors in our life of faith that will perplex us as he inspires us greatly and challenges us profoundly. Do not be afraid to seek his intercession; for He desires for you to be with him in heaven and one day be part of that great Adventuswhen Jesus Christ returns in glory.