Summary: Our Lord forebears because His desire is for all to be saved. And when the trumpet blows, the time for repentance is over.
Second Sunday in Advent 2020
Let me share reflections on the Word of God for the second Sunday in Advent in this plague year 2020. The virus has been a plague, at least made worse by the attitude and behavior of the communist regime in mainland China. The election has been a plague, and I think is rightly considered such by any rational American. The terrible racial tensions have been like a disease on the American mind and heart. The COVID-related lockdowns of businesses and religious observances has been a plague on body and spirit, and all of this together has led to a spiritual plague that has decimated the Christian population and given us skyrocketing rates of drug addiction, depression, alcoholism and suicides.
Would that I could in good conscience tell you superficial words of tenderness and comfort, as Isaiah counsels. We may have received double for our sins of committing or permitting the murder of children in their first nine months of life, of allowing courts to recognize perversion as marriage, of keeping silent while the culture redefines two sexes into forty genders, of encouraging politicians to use their positions to enrich themselves and their families. But there is no end in sight of these follies because our nation has not repented and turned back to Christ. The glory of the Lord is always available for revelation, but nations that do not turn their backs on sin must forthwith see that glory revealed by their righteous punishment.
But suppose, by God’s grace and the miraculous repentance of national leaders, we do admit our crimes and ask forgiveness. We can at least do that as individuals and families. God is able and willing to come to us. He will do that this day in Word and Sacrament, and share with us His sanctifying grace and boundless spiritual energy. Yes, He feeds us as a shepherd feeds His sheep, and lead those families who are giving birth to and raising children for the Church and the world.
So we can sing in the words of the psalmist–pronounced with a silent “p”–how when we turn to the Lord in our hearts, we will hear Him speak peace to us. Peace, not just the absence of war, although we need that to start, in our families, our nation and world, but abundance of what we and the world need. And that is the presence of God. In His presence, steadfast love goes hand in hand with fidelity. Men and women honor and revere their marriage covenant. Young listen to their elders and learn wisdom from them, and the old guide and protect the young from their folly. The Lord wants nothing but good for us, for His children, but we have to make our ways just before He is able to give us everything we need.
The words of St. Peter’s second epistle, a kind of encyclical letter from the first Pope, are quite frankly terrifying if we read them only on the surface. The heavens pass away and all of creation is incinerated. It’s like the riots in our cities this year to the nth power. But all that is planned in order to make something new. It seems that the second coming of Christ is delayed well past any hope of occurring. But if a thousand years to us is like a day to God, then we haven’t even passed through forty-eight God hours since the Resurrection of Jesus. God delays only because when the angel blows the trumpet, the time of repentance is over. Those who have not turned back to God by then are doomed. And God is all-merciful, so He hasn’t blown the whistle yet.//
He forebears because His desire is for all to be saved. So our challenge is to make goodness so attractive, by our lives and words, that people around us ask why we are so joyful, and themselves come to repentance and get initiated into the life of Christ. That means each of us must clean up our acts and live lives of holiness. God needs saints, but all He has is us. So we have to become saints to fulfill His plan. When it is fulfilled, we’ll forget the fire and the old world, because new heavens and earth, without sin and death, will be ours.
Thus it was in the first century, when John appeared at the Jordan River and preached repentance and a baptism of contrition. He most tellingly announced that–holy as John was–he was not even worthy to sandal up the one he was announcing. His baptism was only a water symbol, but the baptism Jesus would bring would actually obliterate sin and bring the very life of God to His disciples then, and now. He would initiate the kingdom we celebrate every time we come together to hear His Word and take His very self in the Eucharist.