Today’s Advent Reading:
USCCB – December 4th
Today we light two purple candles of our Advent wreath, marking the Second Sunday of this liturgical season dedicated to preparing to commemorate Jesus’ first coming at Christmas and to readying ourselves for his eventual second coming in glory. This expression of Advent’s two-fold purpose clearly emphasizes Jesus’ coming. Yet, in today’s First Reading and Gospel, while we do encounter the theme of “coming,” the emphasis is not so much on Jesus’ coming, but rather, on the comings of the Holy Spirit, John the Baptist, and the people of Judea. Let us look more closely at today’s readings.
In the First Reading, Isaiah prophesies the coming of the Holy Spirit. Through this prophecy, Isaiah is foretelling the event known as Pentecost, during which, fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection, the Holy Spirit, in the form of wind and fire, descended upon Jesus’ Apostles and other disciples. With the coming of the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ followers received the “spirits” of piety, understanding, fortitude, wisdom, awe and wonder, counsel, and knowledge. My Church recognizes these seven “spirits” as the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, gifts that we receive when we make the sacrament of Confirmation, thereby completing our initiation into the Church. Just as the Holy Spirit came to Jesus’ disciples at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit comes to us at our Confirmations.
In the Gospel, Matthew recounts the coming of John the Baptist to baptize the people of Judea once they had repented; the Baptism was a forgiveness of their sins. The passage also includes John the Baptist’s foretelling of the coming of Jesus, when he says, “the one who is coming after me is mightier than I” (Matthew 3:11). Christian churches today continue to recognize and celebrate the sacrament of Baptism that Matthew introduces in this passage.
With the First Reading’s prophecy of the coming of the Holy Spirit and the Gospel’s report of the coming of John the Baptist, today’s readings do contain Advent’s theme of “coming,” but they nuance our understanding of the concept, because they refer to the comings of entities and individuals other than Jesus. With Jesus coming to us, John the Baptist coming to the people of Judea, and the Holy Spirit coming to Jesus’ disciples, it always seems to be that some greater being is coming to us, God’s people. However, today’s readings challenge our understanding of who is capable of “coming.” When we read in Matthew 3:5-6 that many “were going out to him and were being baptized by him,” we ask the questions: Are we capable, instead, of coming to them? Do we share some of the responsibility of coming?
Yes! There are tangible ways, this Advent season and always, that we can come. We can come to the faith. We can come to Jesus. Through coming to the faith, we can encounter the faith. Through coming to Jesus, we can encounter Jesus. In our encounters with the faith and with Jesus, we can be transformed. This Advent season, I encourage you to come and encounter Jesus and the faith through tangible means like the sacraments, prayer, charity, and the Bible. Let us not forget this Advent that, while we await both the commemoration of Jesus’ first coming to us at Christmas and his second coming to us in glory, so, too, can we . . .
Come to Jesus. Encounter him. Let two purple candles lead the way.
Marina Spinelli ’18 is a Junior in Eliot House studying Human Evolutionary Biology.