The Second Sunday of Advent takes to reflect on the New Exodus. The first reading from the book of Baruch, the prophet says that the hand of God will bring back Israelites from the Babylonian exile. The Prophet tells Jerusalem to“put on the splendor of glory from God forever.” It is an encouragement for Jerusalem which is inspired by the second half of Isaiah. We read in the Book of Isaiah 52:1, “Awake, awake! Put on your strength, Zion; Put on your glorious garments, Jerusalem, holy city. Never again shall the uncircumcised or the unclean enter you.” Another aspect of this reading is to turn our focus on to the new exodus. Prophet Baruch (5:7) is quoting from Isaiah 40:3-5 which is in the Gospel today (Luke 3:1-6) John the Baptist applies to himself. Baruch’s prophecy is about the mission of John the Baptist and the new exodus. John’s invitation to prepare the way through the baptism of repentance for a new exodus.
We know the exodus story, Moses led them back from Egypt. The Hebrews were brought into exile not just because they were weaker than their neighbors, but because they deserted the God who had formed them into His people. They recognized their sins and the hand of God brought them back to Promised Land. Advent is the time we prepare our way to celebrate the birth of Jesus. We are busy during advent with decorations, wrapping gifts, and at the same time we take time to prepare our mind and heart.
In the second reading, St. Paul gives us a prayer for this Advent to reflect and prepare our way: “this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.”
This week we are celebrating the solemnity of Immaculate Conception. Bernadette Soubirous at the age of 14 encountered a vision of a woman named Mary in a cave above the banks of the Gave River near Lourdes. She was poor and young, so no one believed her, but the vision continued. Finally, the local priest asked Bernadette to find out the name of the woman. Bernadette asked Mary and she replied “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Today thousands of people went on pilgrimage to Lourdes and received many blessings. I had the privilege to make a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France where Mary appeared.
The Immaculate Conception was defined as a Dogma in 1854 in the Apostolic Constitution of Pope Pius IX “Ineffabilis Deus.” Mary approved it by declaring to Bernadette at Lourdes, “I am the Immaculate Conception”. The celebration of this feast already existed in the church. Monks in Palestinian monasteries started celebrating the feast of Conception of Our Lady by the end of the 7th century. Over the years it spread to different regions. Pope Leo VI propagated the celebration in the universal church and Pope Sixtus IV approved it as a feast.
Every year during Advent we celebrate the feast of Immaculate Conception and we listen to the Gospel passage angel's invitation to become Mother of God. We read in the Gospel, "Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you" (Luke 1:28). This passage tells us about the state holiness of Mary. In the first reading from the Book of Genesis, after the fall of Adam and Eve, God promised that there will be a woman and her son to save the generation of Adam and Eve: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel" (3:15). Mary is the new Eve and Christ is the new Adam. In Mary, humanity responded to God. She said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). God chose Mary when St. Ann conceived Mary and she was full of grace.
I take this opportunity to wish everyone the Happy Feast of Immaculate Conception, especially to Parishioners of Immaculate Conception. I would like to thank the Immaculate Conception parish council for the small gift for the celebration of our parish patron day celebration. I would also like to congratulate our Confirmation Candidates who are introduced at Immaculate Conception and St. Anthony this weekend. Let us keep them all in our prayers.