5th December, 2021

rough hewn prison cell with light coming in through bars

Every time I pray for all of you, I pray with joy!

The Second Sunday of Advent, Year C

All of today’s Readings for the second Sunday of Advent tell us something very interesting, but also give us some valuable tips on how to prepare spiritually for this wonderful and long-awaited encounter with Jesus Christ in the mystery of Bethlehem Night. So, let’s take a look at this beautiful Word of God once again and take another step forward in our spiritual journey towards Christmas.

At the very beginning of the first reading, the prophet Baruch says: Take off your dress of sorrow and distress. I think this is a very important invitation and encouragement for us, especially when our lives may become bleak and pessimistic on these days of December, which are getting shorter and shorter with each passing day. And that is why I would like us to ask ourselves two very simple questions: How often do we experience these two pessimistic feelings mentioned by the prophet Baruch? And the second question: What usually and most often causes in our lives these two unpleasant things which are: sorrow and distress? Sometimes it can be our loneliness, sometimes a lack of understanding and rejection that we experience in our families and communities where we live. Sometimes it can be any disease, weakness, sometimes the loss of a friend or a very close person, or maybe the loss of something that was very valuable and precious to us. As we know, all these difficult experiences can be very painful for us and can cause many negative feelings including these two mentioned by Prophet Baruch in the first reading. Take off your dress of sorrow and distress. A bit further, in the second part of his speech, the prophet Baruch tells us about what we can do, especially now as we journey through Advent towards Christmas. Put on the beauty of God for ever, put the diadem of the glory of the Eternal on your head. The Prophet wants to tell us something very simple, that only God’s grace and His providence can bring us real peace and also relief from all our difficulties, struggles, sorrows and distress.

In the second reading from the Letter to the Philippians, we heard about the great importance of our daily prayer, but not only that, because this reading is very rich in content. As we heard, St. Paul also teaches us what our prayer should be. We may not know this fact, but Saint Paul wrote this particular letter while he was in prison, and what struck me most about this text are the following words: Every time I pray for all of you, I pray with joy. Yes, he said: I pray for all of you with joy! Someone might ask, how is it possible to pray with joy while in prison? Probably none of us have been in prison unless to visit someone, but we can guess that this is not something we would wish on our friends or the people we like and respect… I suppose that if we were in the same or similar situation as Saint Paul found himself, especially when he wrote this letter, our attitude would be completely different and our prayer would have nothing to do with joy. But on the other hand, when we listen to this particular letter, we can see and realize how important it is to pray with joy, no matter what circumstances we live in, and what kind of problems we have to face every day. It does not matter if we are in prison fearing for our life and future, it does not matter if we live in a difficult time of the pandemic, it does not matter if we are threatened by another variant of this horrible virus or something else. Saint Paul gives a great example of trust in God but also of prayer, which has great power in all the difficult and dramatic circumstances in which we find ourselves at times. But Saint Paul gives us something else – and this is the most important thing for us – an example of incredible joy and optimism, the source of which is God’s grace and God’s providence.

The second thing that struck me about this reading was the intention in which he prayed. As we heard, he did not pray for his release, he did not pray for good health for himself either. He did not pray for a long life for himself, he did not pray for any bad things, misfortunes and disasters for his enemies and opponents. No! Do we remember what he prayed for? He himself explains it to us in his letter when he says: My prayer is that your love for each other may increase more and more and never stop improving your knowledge and deepening your perception so that you can always recognize what is best. Aren’t these words wonderful, surprising and inspiring at the same time, especially since they were written in a prison?

Let us pray today, on the second Sunday of Advent, asking God to help us take off our own dress of sorrow and distress. Let us ask that, with the help of God’s grace, we could see the world around us in a more positive and optimistic way. And let us also pray for inner spiritual strength and deep faith so that, together with Saint Paul, we would be able to say to all the people we work with and meet every day: Every time I pray for all of you, I pray with joy! And also: My prayer is that your love for each other may increase more and more and never stop improving your knowledge and deepening your perception so that you can always recognize what is best.

This will also be my prayer for all of you!

 

Fr Gregory