“Led away, on foot, by their enemies, they left you . . . . But God will bring them back to you . . .” (Baruch)
Last week we heard from Jeremiah that God’s Promise would be fulfilled. The Advent journey for the Jews and for us continues as we live and walk in the light of that Promise.
But on this Second Sunday of Advent, they (and maybe we) seem to be far from that Promise. They have lost the center of their identity—Jerusalem—and are in exile in Babylon. Baruch, sometimes called “Jeremiah’s secretary”, is the messenger we meet today. He is a poet and he has accompanied the Jewish people into exile and captivity. Jerusalem is the City of Identity for the Jewish people, but now it is only in their memory and prayer.
How did this exile happen? What the people are experiencing is the result of their own unfaithfulness to God’s covenant relationship of unconditional love. They are the ones who have separated and disconnected from their relationship with God. They long to return to their homeland and their relationship with the God who brought them out of that first exile when they were in Egypt. But some things must change in their hearts and lives before they can go HOME!
This is the setting, the context for this second week of Advent. Several questions need to be asked here. What does it mean to be in EXILE? The second question is just as important: where is the wisdom, the answer as to how one gets out of EXILE and goes back HOME?
The word “exile” as defined in the dictionary is “the state or period of forced absence from one’s country or home.” It then goes on to say that an exile is “one who separates herself/himself from their home.” The situation of the Jewish people seems to fit both of these definitions of “exile.”
We hear Barch speaking to Jerusalem in the First Reading about the Jews. “Led on foot by their enemies they left you: but God will bring them back to you.”
For this to happen, they need to begin to live the covenant relationship with their God now, while they are still in exile, and this must be seen as a change of heart which is real and is visible in a life of faithfulness to their relationship with their God who loves them unconditionally. Then and only then will God bring them back home!
And what of us? Is it possible that we contribute to our own exile? We need to ask ourselves how do we disconnect from this relationship with God? In what ways do we find ourselves separating from unconditional love? How have we left home? How have we disregarded or become to complacent with the Covenant Relationship of God with us—self and others as we live that out in our own life?
We may find ourselves saying, “Oh, I’m fine with my relationship with God.” But this Covenant relationship that God formed with us is not only a vertical relationship between us and God. Jesus tells us in the Scriptures that we must love God with our whole being and we must love our neighbor as ourselves.
As the Jews in Exile had to face their unfaithfulness to the Covenant Relationship of Love, had to have a change of heart and live faithfully, so must we follow this same journey this Advent. Look at your own life and ask from your heart, “where am I in Exile in my life? Why am I in Exile in my life? Where do I need to let go so as to find the way back home through the valleys that need to be filled, the mountains that need to be brought low and the winding roads that need to be straightened in my life? Am I willing to let God do this in my Life?
The Jews were in Exile because they had forgotten the gift of their being God’s people and their city as a holy place of God’s presence. We also need this Advent journey so that we will remember what’s what and what’s not, who we are called to be and to become.
We begin with “remembering” that an attitude of self-centeredness, a mind-set that speaks of “entitlement,” all fall into the area of what ought not to be in our life. We need to ask ourselves, “Does my life speak of consideration for others and a “community mindedness”? We can quite easily assess this by looking at how we are living our unconditional love for God, self, and others on a daily basis.
Does my life speak of disconnectedness or separateness or of community mindedness and God’s unconditional love in my relationships?
We can find our way again on this journey. The wisdom and the answer lie in the Scriptures for this Second Sunday of Advent. They speak of the Promise and they speak of the Hope that the journey of Advent will bring us at its fulfillment.
Baruch tells us that it is God who does this. This God who loves us unconditionally who will bring us back. And he will bring us back “carried in glory as on a royal throne . . . for God is leading Israel in joy by the light of his glory, with his mercy and justice for company.” We do not have to fear. It is a journey based on love and God is with us. It requires of us a change of heart and a community mindedness.
Paul reinforces that message by telling us, “The one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” It is God who does this—not our efforts to control or manipulate to have God’s will fit ours. We need to trust that our faithful God gives us what we need to complete the journey.
Finally in the Gospel, John the Baptist is going throughout the whole region of the Jordan proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, and quotes Isaiah, saying that “all flech shall see the salvation of God.” We need to be like John – a herald, a witness – showing by our lives and our words that we will place ourselves in God’s hands and walk with the one who is the Light of the World. We will be a flesh and blood witness of the Covenant Relationship of Love.
This is quite a Promise! It ought to fill us with hope for our journey this Advent.
Just what is this message of Hope that we’re given this week? It is this: we need to show by our lives, by our faithful observance of God’s ways that we are ready and willing in our hearts and minds to do what we must do and become who we must become so that God will say to us, “COME HOME!”