Second Sunday of Advent

Reflection by Fr. Frank Hegel, SFM, on Isaiah 40.1-5,9-11, 2 Peter 3.8-15 and Mark 1.1-8

 Our society is a busy society. Our lives seem to be filled with busy-ness. In many ways we have become a culture of workaholics. Time is money. There is neither place nor time for quiet.

It is not only busy, it is also a fast moving society. Technology was supposed to give us more time to be still. Instead it feeds us more work and demands ever greater results, making us not only busier but faster. 

But that’s not all. We also live in a noisy society. The mass media today is constantly bombarding our senses, and its constant stimulation makes it difficult to enter into a calm, reflective mindset. It is difficult to hear over all the noise.

Amidst the noise and beehive of activity we cry out “Stop the world, I want to get off.” It’s hard to cope. It’s hard to be still. As a result, we have not cultivated the skills of listening/hearing, reading and writing. And where these skills do exist, they are selective. We aren’t really aware, or we are only selectively aware – especially if the news is bad news or demands something of us.

In the midst of all our frenzy of activity, we hear in today’s first reading the beautiful words that God commands Isaiah to speak to His people in exile who need some hope that all is not lost. They are words of tenderness, of comfort, of compassion, of closeness, of care and concern. Do we need a word of comfort too? We can’t compare our trials and tribulations to those the Israelites experienced during their exile, but we too have been separated from God by our busy-ness and lack of stillness. The Psalmist (46:10) says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Can we hear those words?

In the gospel, John cries out in the wilderness. Can we hear him? Do we want to hear him? Keeping on the move and keeping our minds full is a wonderful defense. John’s message of “repentance” is hard to listen to because it might involve change. But what we listen to will determine what we hear. And what we hear does form our attitudes, and our actions depend on our attitudes.

It’s never easy to hear “bad” news, but sometimes we don’t even want to hear the good news. For example, do we want to hear the Good News of Jesus’ birth? He is saying something by his arrival and his stay amongst us permanently. If we listen carefully, are we not being invited to rearrange our ways?

The famous American writer and columnist, Will Rogers, once wrote: “Never pass up an opportunity to shut up.” We can’t listen if we don’t shut up. Silence offers us the opportunity to open up – to a new reality. Being quiet or being still does not mean that nothing is going on; rather it means precisely that something is going on – at a deeper level.

During this Advent season, and especially in the readings today, we are invited to stop the world, get off the busy track, be still, listen and hear what God is saying. Let us prepare the way for the Lord.