Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever: wrapped in the cloak of justice from God, bear on your heard the mitre that displays the glory of the eternal name. For God will show all the earth your splendor: you will be named by God forever the peace of justice, the glory of God's worship.
Up, Jerusalem! Stand upon the heights; look to the east and see your children gathered from the east and the west at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that they are remembered by God. Led away on foot by their enemies they left you: but God will bring them back to you borne aloft in glory as on royal thrones. For God has commanded that every lofty mountain be made low, and that the age-old depths and gorges be filled to level ground, that Israel may advance secure in the glory of God. The forests and every fragrant kind of tree have overshadowed Israel at God's command; for God is leading Israel in joy by the light of his glory, with his mercy and justice for company.(P) The word of the Lord.
When the Lord brought back the captives of Zion, we were like men dreaming. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with rejoicing. (R)
Then they said among the nations, "The Lord has done great things for them." The Lord had done great things for us; we are glad indeed. (R)
Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the torrents in the southern desert. Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing. (R)
Although they go forth weeping, carrying the seed to be sown, they shall come back rejoicing, carrying their sheaves. (R)
Brothers and sisters: I pray always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. God is my witness, how I long for all of your with the affection of Christ Jesus. And 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.(P) The word of the Lord.
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert. John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: A voice of one crying out in the desert: "Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God."(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
Today we start the second week of Advent. Advent is a time set aside by the church to spiritually prepare us for both the celebration of the birth of Jesus or the First Coming of Jesus and for the return of the Lord or the Second Coming of Jesus. As part of the preparation, we read and reflect on the scriptures relating to the comings of Jesus. The first readings from the Book of the Old Testament narrate the prophecies that foretell the birth of Jesus. The second readings chosen from four different letters of the New Testament speak about the second coming of Jesus. And the gospels recount the setting and historical circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus.
There are two predominant views about the nature of Jesus' Second Coming:
In today's second reading we hear another exhortation to preparedness for the coming of the Lord. The text is a part of the letter of Saint Paul to the Christians at Philippi, a small town in Greece at the time of Paul. The letter is one of the four prison epistles which Paul wrote during his first imprisonment in Rome for two years. Other letters are to the Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon. Imagine! He was in prison facing possible execution. His own circumstances were difficult, and yet he wrote to express his love and care and to encourage other believers to have hope, peace and joy.
From the reading we learn four facts about Saint Paul:
Paul was joyful because of his intimacy with Jesus Christ and his experience of God's love through other believers.
He wrote, "I pray always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now." Paul loved all the churches which he had founded and, he prayed for all of them and, wrote to them letters of instruction, correction, guidance and encouragement. Even while in prison, Paul did not think of himself but of those communities. He remembered and prayed for them and, he did so with joy. Especially, he recalled how from the beginning, the Philippians partnered with him in the spreading of the gospel through their friendship and financial support. The Christians in Philippi were not rich, but they supported Paul in his work with more than the gift of money. For instance, in his letter to the Corinthians, 2 Corinthians (8:1-5), Paul commended the generosity of the churches of Macedonia which included the community at Philippi. So, when Paul remembered what they did for him, both when he was with them and when he was apart from them, he was extremely happy and thankful, and he prayed for them. His love for them was so deep that he called the Philippian Church his "joy and crown", Philippians (4:1).
Paul was confident in the Lord.
He wrote, "I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus." Throughout his ministry Paul suffered rejection, misunderstanding, suspicion, shipwreck and imprisonments. And yet when he thought of the works of God in his life he was full of joyful praise for and total confidence in God. Particularly he remembered God's work among the Philippians and was very confident of its completion even though he was not with them. He did not allow the prison circumstances to discourage him. Deep down he believed that God was in control of all things, and He would accomplish all His purposes.
Paul was faithful in his love for the Philippians.
He wrote, "God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the affection." Paul was an observant and well-respected Jew. He was a great intellect and highly educated but he was also a man of tender compassion and love. He loved the Philippians with the same kind of tender care with which Jesus loved the world when He gave Himself for it. So He could even call God as his witness regarding his love for the Philippians.
Paul showed his love and affection toward the Philippians through his prayers.
He wrote, "I pray that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that they 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."
Paul knew that the Philippian Christians loved God and one another a great deal. Moreover, he personally experienced their love and support for him. So as a sign of appreciation and gratitude he prayed to God on their behalf. His prayer for them was very simple but the most important to their life. He prayed that the Philippians may still increase and abound in love. He did not pray for their love to begin but to overflow, to increase more and more. In other words, no matter how much they loved God and one another he wanted them to love more and more. However, Paul did not speak of some sentimental kind of love but of love that is grounded in knowledge and discernment. Knowledge here refers to the understanding of God's Word. It comes from studying and meditating on God's Word and conforming our lives to God's Word.
By understanding God's Word we'll understand how we can truly love God and others. Knowing about love isn't enough. We also need discernment in applying this knowledge of love to practical everyday situations in life. That is to say, the love that God wants us to have is not just a feeling, but a conscious act of the will - a deliberate decision. So Paul prayed that the Philippian Christians may choose to love God and one another more and more based on their knowledge and discernment of God's love through God's Word so that the love may be pure and blameless until the second coming of Christ.
God Bless You!