Homily for the Second Sunday of Advent 2020 by Fr Gregory Corcoran, Prior
Repentance and Faith: Listening to the Voice of St John the Baptist
A New Beginning
Today Mother Church, in the purple of Advent, welcomes us to worship together again: we are conscious of a new beginning. This sense of a new beginning is strengthened as we start to read the Gospel according to St Mark. The beginning of the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The good news we are to hear from St Mark through this liturgical year is the teaching of the Son of God, confirmed by his miracles and sealed by his redemptive death and the glory of his resurrection. We respond to the gospel by repentance and by faith, the very same virtues that were preached by all the prophets. The voice we hear in the gospel today is the voice of the greatest of those prophets, John the Baptist. The fact that Mark begins his gospel with the words of the prophets shows clearly that what he has to say is bound up with the old covenant and cannot be separated from it. The one divine revelation which began with the call of Abraham, is carried forward lovingly, patiently, according to God’s plan, so that all may reach repentance.
Repentance and Patience
As we pass from the old to the new covenant, to the time of greater grace in which we live, we too are summoned by the Baptist to respond to his call to repentance, remembering that the Pharisees, in rejecting John’s message, rejected God’s purpose for themselves. The common people, on the other hand, flocked to John and were baptised by him signifying their repentance by confessing their sins. The dynamic of our baptism in the Holy Spirit is a lifelong commitment to repentance, to seek the more perfect way. For each of us the path to perfection of love is a daily labour of patience; lives of holiness and godliness are only achieved through cooperation with God’s forbearance and grace.
Waiting for the Revelation of the Son of God
The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, signifies the presence of the time of greater grace. Whatever secular culture may impose, we are in the years of Our Lord, AD Anno Domini: these are the years of grace, the grace of the gospel. God’s favour is signified in the gospel of Mark firstly by exorcisms: the evil spirits themselves have to be silenced by Jesus as they publicise their knowledge of his divine sonship. It is for the grace of the Holy Spirit to elicit in each of us the response of faith: the evil spirits are no messengers of God. At the Baptism of Our Lord, as at the Transfiguration, the voice of the Father is heard from heaven proclaiming Jesus’ divine sonship: those who are present and able to hear it are the repentant, the sincere, children of Israel. Astonishment, wonder, awe are the reactions of the people to the teaching, the exorcisms and the miracles of Jesus related by Mark. The decisive proclamation of the divine sonship of Jesus is made on Calvary by the centurion. He comes to faith through witnessing Jesus’ patience in suffering and the manner of his death which reveal the victim to be the Son of God. He it is whom we hasten to meet.