2nd Sunday of Advent
In his book, Seasons of Celebration, Thomas Merton speaks of Advent as a time of new beginnings. The Church – the Jerusalem of the first reading – goes back and relives once again all the major events in the life of Christ. The cloak of justice from God is Christ himself, who is “God from God”, and he is also the mitre that displays the glory of the eternal name on the head of his body, the Church.
But the first reading also speaks of the children of the Church, gathered from the east and the west, rejoicing that they are remembered by God. Every son and daughter of the Church has a spiritual journey to make, not only to Christmas but to Easter, with God’s mercy and justice for company. Here again, God’s mercy and justice, the one who will be our companion on the way, is Christ himself, who is the light of God’s glory, given so that we may advance secure in the glory of God.
In fact, there is no surer sign that God has remembered us, than that he has commanded that the age-old depths between God and man be filled to level ground, so that Christ can lead us in joy as a human being like ourselves, our companion and friend, as he was to lead the two travelers on the way to Emmaus, by the light of the glory of his resurrection. Already in the mysterious allusive language of the prophet Baruch, the spiritual life is one of friendship with Christ: God is leading Israel in joy, with his mercy and justice for company.
In his letter to the Philippians, St Paul prays for what we need as we begin to renew our friendship with Christ, our companion on the way. He writes: This is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception. For the spiritual life is not a solitary journey – there was more than one traveler on the way to Emmaus. All along the way, there is interaction between those who give and those who receive, a kind of holy communion which is the mark of all spiritual life and therefore of friendship.
That is why St Paul can say that he misses his friends at Philippi: I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. May your love increase ever more and more. In other words, treat one another as friends, because that is how Christ Jesus is always treating you. At the same time, deepen your perception of the difference between friendship with God and friendship with other people: there are depths of the soul which no human being can fill, and which cry out for God until the day of Christ Jesus.
The Gospel too teaches us something about friendship. It shows us John the Baptist as a solitary figure at first, a voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord’. John prepared the way of the Lord in his own soul before the word of God came to him in the desert. His life teaches us what is meant by preparing the way of the Lord: it means to make room in your heart for friendship with the Lord, so that all flesh may see the salvation of God, and become (as John would later describe himself), “a friend of the Bridegroom”.
During this season of Advent, the Church invites each of her sons and daughters to deepen our friendship with Christ, who is also a Bridegroom for us, the Bridegroom of the soul. The way of the Lord is a spiritual journey out of our self-centeredness into Christ-centeredness, from a hopeless loneliness to a profound communion with Christ and all those who are in Christ.
At this holy communion, the Body and Blood of Christ will become the sacrament of God’s friendship with us. Let us prepare a way for him in our hearts, and make him the companion of every moment of our life’s journey. For this friendship does not end in death. It leads to the wedding feast of the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.