Second Sunday of Advent, Cycle B.

Sunday Church at Home

during lockdown in the Coronavirus Pandemic

Conversion and the New World.

The lay leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:

Leader: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

All reply: Amen

Leader: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

All reply: Blessed be God for ever

Leader: John the Baptist described himself as a voice which cries in the wilderness. Some people heard him and responded, preparing their hearts to welcome God into their lives in a new and unexpected way.

Lighting of the second candle on the Advent wreath.

Leader: On this Second Sunday of Advent we continue our journey towards Christmas. It is a time of reflection and prayer, where we think about Jesus as we await His birth and reaffirm our faith in His return.

We now light the second candle on the Advent wreath.

The first candle is the candle of hope;

the second candle today is for faith.

We light this candle today remembering to put our faith in God.

The second candle is lit.

Leader: Merciful Lord,

as we move through Advent

and towards the glorious celebration of your birth,

grant us the faith we need to always trust in you,

to hope in your unfailing love,

and to always call on you in times of trouble.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

If you have a Jesse Tree, the next 5 symbols can be placed. You can download “The Christmas Wreath and Jesse Tree: A Guide for Family Reflections 2020” from the parish Website and the parish App for the reflections.

Or you can use this:

Now let us reflect on more symbols on the Jesse tree to remind us of the people and events of salvation history as we look forward to the coming of the Saviour.

  1. Joseph and his Coat: The beautiful coat, a princely symbol that Jacob had made for his beloved son Joseph became the focus of the jealousy of his 11 brothers. Lord may we be humble before you and remember all that we have is from you. (pause)
  1. The Burning Bush: The manifest presence of God in the form of a burning bush that was not consumed by the fire. May we too be filled with the fire of God’s love in our lives and remember that, like Moses, He calls each of us by name. (pause)
  1. Moses and the Law: The ten commandments; help us Lord to uphold these God given laws in our daily interactions with everyone we meet especially the vulnerable. (pause)
  1. The Prophet Samuel: Here we have a lamp which represents the light of the Word of God coming into the world. Help us to hear your word Lord and bring its life into the world. (pause)
  1. A Sheaf of Wheat: Ruth was allowed to collect left-over wheat in the fields following behind the reapers so that she could have enough food for her mother-in-law Naomi and herself. When we look at this sheaf of wheat, we remember that Gods provision extends to all people who trust in Him. (pause)

The service continues with the Liturgy of the Word.

LITURGY OF THE WORD

First Reading: Isaiah 40:1-5.9-11

Introduction to the reading: This passage from the book of Isaiah begins with God calling upon the prophet to encourage the Jewish people who are exiled in Babylon.  The prophet is to tell them that they will be returning home soon, and the road of the return will pass through the desert.  We will also hear God call the people to proclaim from a mountaintop the goodness of God.

A reading from the Book of Isaiah

Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare
is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the LORD’s hand
double for all her sins.

A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Get you up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good tidings;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,
lift it up, fear not;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Behold your God!”
Behold, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
behold, his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd,
he will gather the lambs in his arms,
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.

The word of the Lord.

Responsorial psalm: Psalm 85:9ab and 10.11-12.13-14

R/: Let us see, O Lord, your mercy
and grant us your salvation.

I will hear what the Lord God speaks;

He speaks of peace for his people and his faithful.

His salvation is near for those who fear him,
and his glory will dwell in our land.

Merciful love and faithfulness have met;

justice and peace have kissed.

Faithfulness shall spring from the earth,

and justice look down from heaven.

Also the Lord will bestow his bounty,

and our earth shall yield its increase.

Justice will march before him,

and guide his steps on the way.

R/: Let us see, O Lord, your mercy
and grant us your salvation.

Second reading: 2 Peter 3:8-14

Introduction to the reading: The second letter of Peter was written nearly 100 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection.  At an earlier time, Christians had expected the Lord to return in glory quickly.  But by this time, they had lost confidence that the Lord would return at all.  The author doesn’t want people to abandon their hope, and gives a positive interpretation to this delay.

A reading from the second Letter of Saint Peter

Do not ignore this one fact, beloved,
that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years,
and a thousand years as one day.
The Lord is not slow about his promise
as some count slowness,
but is forbearing toward you,
not wishing that any should perish,
but that all should reach repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief,
and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise,
and the elements will be dissolved with fire,
and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burnt up.

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved,
what sort of persons ought you to be
in lives of holiness and godliness,
waiting for and hastening
the coming of the day of God,
because of which the heavens will be kindled and dissolved,
and the elements will melt with fire!
But according to his promise we wait for new heavens
and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Therefore, beloved, since you wait for these,
be zealous to be found by him without spot or blemish,
and at peace.

The Word of the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia.
Prepare the way for the Lord, make his paths straight; all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

Alleluia!

Gospel: Mark 1:1-8

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,
“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who shall prepare your way;
the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight”

John the Baptist  appeared in 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.
Now John was clothed with camel’s hair,
and had a leather belt around his waist,
and ate locusts and wild honey.
And he preached, saying,
“After me comes he who is mightier than I,
the thong of whose sandals
I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.
I have baptised you with water;
but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.”

The Gospel of the Lord.

Reflection on the Readings

The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.

Homily

On Friday evening I had a get together with a bunch of my family – all the ones from Gauteng. It was the first time we were together in person since the start of lock down in March. I got them to share on something they enjoyed and something they hated about lockdown. It is a long list each of us could add to:

  • A – is a nurse and so was at hospital every day –  loved empty roads going to work
  • V – loved working from home & wants to continue
  • E – is a teen – loved not going to school every day – hated not playing sport
  • J – noticed elderly people isolated and deteriorating in their health with the lack of contact
  • B – his first child born in July – loved being at home
  • W – stuck in the Northern Cape for months – could not visit girlfriend in Gauteng
  • M – on way to USA for a year – could not go – now still waiting for a visa
  • T – Drivers license due – couldn’t get appointment – frustrated with the collapse of government services.
  • J – could not be there when her granddaughter born
  • G – saw the immense suffering among people – losing jobs and going hungry
  • D – A friend died from covid

Well, you know all this and much more. The present is glum, who knows when we will get back to some semblance of our old lives?

In the light of our current exile and afflictions we turn a hopeful and yearning ear to the prophet Isaiah. Listen to these words:

Comfort, comfort my people says your God.”? Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended.”

It reminds me of when I was a child and falling, scraping my knees and my mom picking me up, sitting on her lap, and soothing me saying, “There, there, don’t cry, everything is going to be all right.”? Those are the words we long to hear now when the whole human body is wounded, grieving and afraid.

Advent is described as a season of waiting. But it is not just like waiting for a package from Takealot to arrive. Waiting these days is harder than usual, stirred by pain and the knowledge that we cannot get the relief we yearn for by ourselves. The pain is too universal, not resolved by mere human effort.

We are going into my favourite season of the year – summer. Long hot days, shorter nights, braai’s and sunny skies all say it is good to be alive.   But then we remember the pandemic. Many like the widowed, divorced and those without ready access to families will find this holiday time even more difficult than most of us. We turn to Scriptures and place our faith in the promise they voice to us about our nurturing God who is coming to comfort us. Hurry up God! Come soon, where you!?

When we forget, or ignore God we too, like the Israelites, go into an exile from which we can’t easily extricate ourselves. Which is what happened to them. The Israelites were taken into Babylonian captivity because they were not faithful to their covenant with God. They had sinned, but now God has forgiven them. Which means, God will return them to their homeland where, once again, they will be God’s people. The roads are to be prepared for a swift and unobstructed return by God. God’s coming will be obvious to all nations: “Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed….” The prophet is sent out to announce the good news that the devastated Jerusalem (Zion) will be restored and will, in turn, announce the good news to the other cities of Judah.

What’s the good news? God is coming on the King’s highway with the exiles who had been taken into bondage in Babylon. The exiles will return and God will be their shepherd. Today we want our tender shepherd God to guide us on the path of renewal and well-being.

Certainly this past year has revealed how fragile and divisive we are. We humans long for personal and community healing, which we cannot accomplish on our own. But God has spoken and has life for us. Can God do that? Is God willing to save us? Isaiah provides a definitive answer – Yes! “Here comes with the power, the Lord God who rules by his strong arm.” And more… We can have new life, a growth into a new future, because our gentle shepherd God cares for the sheep and gives us comfort, like a mother with her bruised child on her lap.

I love the story of a three-year-old helping his mother unpack their nativity set. He announced each piece as he removed its tissue paper wrappings. “Here’s the donkey!” he said. “Here’s a king and a camel!” When he finally got to the tiny infant lying in a manger he proclaimed, “Here’s Baby Jesus in his car seat!”

Well, it wasn’t a car seat, but that would be an easy mistake to make, wouldn’t it? We all love nativity scenes. Baby Jesus in the manger . . . Mary and Joseph hovering reverently over the Holy Child . . . shepherds, wise men, assorted cattle, sheep and camels . . . and, of course, a donkey. But, there is always one person missing from these nativity scenes. Have you ever seen John the Baptiser in any of the nativity scenes? Have you heard the voice of John the Baptiser proclaiming, ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is near’ and pointing to the baby Jesus? Well, no. At least, I’ve never seen a nativity scene featuring John the Baptist.

Yet, on the second Sunday of Advent, we always encounter this strange lonely figure proclaiming his message out in the desert,

    • Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
      who shall prepare your way;
      the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
      Prepare the way of the Lord,
      make his paths straight.

John the Baptiser directs us to Jesus. It is Jesus who will fulfill all the hopes of the people that were stirred by the words of the prophets.

John the Baptiser preached in the clear light and emptiness of the wilderness, a good place to hear a message, free of distractions and a chance to reflect on our lives. He calls us to repentance, to rethink our way of life.

My niece shared this with me the other night: “This pandemic and the free time it has forced on me, have given me an opportunity for reflection. It makes me realize how much I have taken for granted. Not just the things I own, but my relationships with family and friends. I am sorry I didn’t express my love and gratitude for them enough. Now I make a point of calling different people each day, especially the sick and elderly who live alone. I have also realized, with so many people out of work, that I have more than enough. I have tried to share my clothes and food with the needy. I have also had a chance to talk with him – at a safe distance and masked – and learn about their personal struggles and I have come to admire their fortitude. In some ways this pandemic has been a strange blessing.”

Advent is our reminder that as we wait for the coming of Christ, Christ is waiting for us, because it is in and through us that Christ enters our world today.

“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low.”

Advent invites us to clean up our act and straighten things up. It is not a time to bargain or convince God to act on our behalf. God is already well disposed towards us and will help us “Prepare the way of the Lord.”

So we ask ourselves:

  • What valleys and empty places in my life need filling in?
  • What mountains and obstacles to God need leveling?
  • What rough edges need smoothing?

Prayer of the Faithful

Leader: God our Father, inspired by John the Baptist, we bring you our prayers, spoken and unspoken, knowing that you listen; that you love; that you care.

Reader:

We pray for Pope Francis: (pause) that as he speaks in our world’s wilderness, people will listen and respond to the Gospel message of peace.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for the marginalised people of our world who feel unheard and unloved: (pause) that their cries for help will not be ignored and that they will receive the help and support that they need.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for our fragile natural world which is so easily damaged by our lack of care for the environment: (pause) that human hearts will respond and nurture this beautiful gift of God as a treasure for all peoples of every age.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for ourselves, our families, friends and all those whom we love: (pause) that we will grow closer to God and to each other during Advent.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for all who are fighting the Coronavirus: (pause) that God will strengthen caregivers, inspire researchers, and guide those who will be distributing the vaccine.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for members of our families and friends who have died and those whose anniversaries occur about this time.
LORD HEAR US

Leader: Let us pray our prayer for Advent:

Heavenly Father,

your son, Jesus, is your greatest gift to us,

a great sign of your love.

Guide us as we strive to walk in that love together as a family this Advent.

As we prepare our hearts for Christmas,

bring us closer to each other

and give us the grace and strength we need every day.

Help us to always trust in you.

Come, Lord Jesus,

lead all people closer to you

and that we may strive to become

the-best-version-of-ourselves.

Fill us with a deep and abiding peace.

Help us share that peace with everyone we encounter, especially those who need it most.

Come and dispel the darkness of our world 

with the light of your love.

Amen.

Spiritual Communion

We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.

By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us.

My Jesus,
I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment,
feed my soul at least spiritually.
I unite myself to you now as I do when I actually receive you.
Amen.

CONCLUDING RITE

Leader: Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us:

All say: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Amen.

Leader: Almighty and merciful God,

do not let our earthly concerns

keep us from hastening to meet your Son,

but teach us the heavenly wisdom

that makes us his true companions.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

Blessing

A leader who is a layperson, using no gesture, says:

Leader: May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.

All: Amen.