Sunday of Advent, Year C
First Reading: Bar 5:1-9
Second Reading: Phil 1:3-6, 8-11
Gospel Reading: Lk 3:1-6
God created humans out of sheer love to share his own divine life and perfect happiness. However, Adam and Eve stopped trusting him and, abusing their freedom, rejected him and his plan for them.
If I had been God, I think I would have shut down the whole experiment then and there. However, as God himself said, “I am God and not man, the Holy One present among you; I will not let the flames consume you.”
The Church marvels at God’s mercy and forbearance in the Fourth Eucharistic Prayer. “You did not abandon (us) to the domain of death. For you came in mercy to the aid of all, so that those who seek might find you. Time and again you offered them covenants and through the prophets taught them to look forward to salvation.
“And you so loved the world, Father most holy, that in the fullness of time you sent your only begotten Son to be our Saviour. Made incarnate by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, he shared our human nature in all things but sin.
“To the poor he proclaimed the good news of salvation; to prisoners, freedom; and to the sorrowful of heart, joy. To accomplish your plan, he gave himself up to death, and, rising from the dead, he destroyed death and restored life.
“And that we might live no longer for ourselves but for him who died and rose again for us, he sent the Holy Spirit from you, Father, as the first fruits for those who believe, so that, bringing to perfection his work in the world, he might sanctify creation to the full.”
This Sunday, we hear that, after our long preparation, our salvation is at hand. “Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem, and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God,” Baruch says in the First Reading. “I am confident of this, that the One who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ,” St. Paul says in the Second Reading.
In the Gospel Reading, we meet Jesus’ immediate precursor, John the Baptist, who proclaimed “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”
Like John’s baptism, the Church’s sacrament of baptism frees us from sin. “By baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin,” says the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “In those who have been reborn, nothing remains that would impede their entry into the Kingdom of God.”
However, unlike John’s baptism, the sacrament of baptism gives us new birth as a child of God, for the Holy Spirit communicates to us, “intimately and personally,” the life that originates in the Father and is offered to us in the Son.
Thus the sacrament of baptism not only purifies us from all sins, but also makes us “a new creation,” introducing us into “the intimacy of Trinitarian life.” As God’s adopted children, we can henceforth call God “Father,” in union with his begotten Son, Jesus.
“This gift exceeds all gifts,” said St. Leo the Great: “that God should call man ‘son,’ and man should name God ‘Father.’”
You can see why I once said spontaneously, immediately after baptizing a baby, “This child now has as much right to heaven as Jesus Christ himself!”
“Think about it in everyday terms,” says Scott Hahn. “You can forgive your auto mechanic if he overcharges you; but it’s unlikely that, upon forgiving him, you’ll adopt him into your family. Yet that is precisely what God has done. He has forgiven us our sins so that we might find our lasting home in the family we call the Trinity.”
This week, amid all the stress of shopping, let us prepare to celebrate Christmas spiritually, for that solemnity begins our adoption into the Blessed Trinity.
Father Hawkswell teaches a free course on the Catholic faith from now until Pentecost: every Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. at the John Paul II Pastoral Centre, 4885 Saint John Paul II Way (just off 33rd Avenue between Oak and Cambie) and twice every Monday, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at St. Anthony’s Parish, 2347 Inglewood Avenue, West Vancouver, and from 7 to 9 p.m. at the John Paul II Pastoral Centre. Everyone is welcome, Catholic or non-Catholic.