Sunday, Dec. 9, is the Second Sunday of Advent. Mass Readings: Baruch 5:1-9; Psalm 126: 1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6; Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11; Luke 3:1-6.
The Greeks had two words for time: chronos and kairos. Chronos referred to time that is sequential, the passing of hours, days and years — linear and historical. Kairos was a sacred moment, a split second of opportunity.
Christianity adopted the word kairos to describe the moments of intersection with time and eternity, each instant when God tears the veil between heaven and earth and reaches into history to act for his purposes. It is the “divine in time.”
In the Gospel for today, the Second Sunday of Advent, Luke begins by setting the scene within a very particular historical context, a concrete description of particular people and places. He is about to tell us something astonishing that really happened within chronos time: “In the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea … during the high priesthood of Anna and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zechariah, in the desert.”
And God comes — kairos time. John responds, beginning his mission to prepare the way for Jesus. Eternity acts, crossing paths within history and urging us to cooperate with his coming: “Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight his paths.”
God’s prophetic revelation, spoken through the prophets of the Old Testament, now increases in intensity and proximity in John the Baptist. The time is now to make ready for the coming of the King.
In the first reading, the prophet Baruch describes the children of Jerusalem returning home after the Babylonian exile. They had been led away, robed in “mourning and misery”; he foretells that they will return “wrapped in the cloak of justice.” It is at the word of God that they will be gathered, the same word that came to John. In that reading, the roads must be leveled for God’s people as he leads them home. Now, in the Gospel, it is God’s turn to come.
And so John gives us our assignment for Advent: There is rubble in his way; there are mountains in his path to us. Our hearts, covered in the debris of the world, must be cleared of sin and smoothed with love and sacrifice. The winding roads, a symbol of our often-distracted and sometimes-wandering souls, must be made into direct paths in order to encounter Christ. We have some “spiritual roadwork” to do. There is no time to lose.
God has kept his promise, and he is coming. Will he be able to reach us through our self-preoccupation? Or will he be delayed by our own consumption and the materialism of the worldly, often-disordered celebration of this season?
God has initiated the encounter: “the word of God came.” He has given us grace upon grace and only needs our continual Yes to keep the roads clear for his coming. St. Paul is “confident of this, that the One who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” The day is coming, and we want to be ready.
at her parish in Phoenix, where she lives with her husband and their six children.