This 2nd Sunday of Advent

Dear OLPH Family and Friends,

                  On this 2nd Sunday of Advent Mark’s Gospel begins with the Call of John the Baptist.  Isaiah is quoted as saying that John would be sent as a messenger to “prepare the way” for the coming of the Messiah.  John calls the people of his time to repentance and conversion.   He’s telling them to return from going down the road of sin, which leads to death, and to set out anew on the road of virtue, which leads to life.   Conversion involves admitting that one’s life is going in the wrong direction, reversing direction and embarking on a whole new life.  This is the message that John the Baptist is preaching to the crowds gathered on the banks of the Jordan River. 

As a sign that they intend to change their lives, John tells the people to step down into the river and be baptized.  He reminds them that washing their bodies, which symbolizes washing their souls, is only the first step.  They must not only die to their old life but also begin living a new life.  This explains what John means when he says, “I have baptized you with water: He (the one to come) will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

John’s baptism is a baptism of repentance.   It is merely the first step.  It is merely a preparation for the second step. The second step is receiving the Holy Spirit and beginning a whole new life. The first step calls for a rejection of sin.   The second step calls for a rebirth by receiving the new life in the Spirit. 

Applying this message to today we realize that even though we have been washed clean of sin and have been baptized into the Spirit, all of us, to some extent, have fallen back into sin.  All of us have a need to undergo conversion and reject sin.   All of us need to revitalize the life of the Spirit within us. Working at the children’s ward of St. Mary’s Hospital, we have to deal with dozens of kids having airways obstructions caused by bronchitis or exercise-induced bronchoconstriction. They need fast help to ease breathing. Ventolin is our first-line treatment in such cases. It can be given through a nebulizer, which is non-traumatic for kids of any age.

Many years ago, Mark Link, S.J. wrote a beautiful story that applies.  Many years ago a man was caught stealing sheep.  The authorities branded on his forehead the letter S.T., standing for “sheep thief.  The man spent the rest of his life living down that humiliating episode.  He succeeded to a remarkable degree.   When the man reached old age, the letters S.T. were still clearly visible on his forehead.    But when children asked their parents what the letters stood for, their parents replied, “They stand for the word saint.” 

God say to all of us here today, in the words of the prophet Isaiah:  “Wash yourselves clean… Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow.”  Is 1:16, 18?

May these days of Advent be a true blessings!    

Fr. Ron