· Vatican City ·

2nd Sunday of Advent: 10 December

Behold! God’s salvation is near

 Behold! God’s salvation is near  ING-049
07 December 2023

“Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him: behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him” (Is. 40 v10).

This adverb, behold, occurs several times in the texts of the Word of God that we hear today. Behold in this sense of its application is an adverb that serves to draw attention to something that is pointed out, to underline a fact, or to indicate a person who suddenly appears. We could almost say: behold is a typically prophetic adverb. It reveals something that was hidden until recently and now makes itself known. He wants to reawaken the listener’s attention, so that he is ready to welcome those who come to him.

The time of Advent reveals a great ‘Behold’, pronounced by the prophets, first, and then by John the Baptist, the last and greatest of the prophets: Behold God’s salvation is near.

It’s a joyful announcement.

This is great news.

It’s the only news we really need.

We are often overwhelmed by news. At every moment, through the most diverse and pervasive means, news of all kinds reaches us; mostly news that talks about dramas, extreme events or the consequences of human ignorance. Sometimes it is fake news, aimed at manipulating our thoughts and guiding our choices. Rather sadly it seems rare that positive or uplifting news comes our way. In fact, not so infrequently, it can be silly, superficial news that narcotizes the critical sense of what news should be about.

But what our heart secretly desires and insistently asks for is to receive a word of hope, to know the truth, to be saved. In the din of the news all around us and seemingly constant, which may dim any vital impulse, today, one word resonates powerfully: Behold... God’s salvation is near! Salvation and liberation are made present to humanity, often a prisoner of sin and afflicted by the anguish that derives from it. Moreover, it is not just any kind of liberation: it is God’s salvation which is reliable, definitive, and eternal.

The prophetic cry always has a double aspect: it reveals something hidden and calls for responsibility. Every piece of news provokes a reaction. Every gift needs someone to receive it to welcome it. God, who offers His salvation, needs our own welcoming response. The Lord is ready to reach us with His saving grace, to cover us with His glory, to enable us to participate in His very life. Yet at the same time, God never violates our freedom: He does not impose Himself on us, on our free will, but simply and lovingly offers Himself, gives Himself, and makes Himself present. His salvation is near (it is close, it is available, it is here, it is free!)… to those who fear Him. The desire for salvation, the request for liberation and the yearning for a full life, which dwells in the very heart of every man and woman, manifest themselves in a precise virtue, the true fear of the Lord.

The fear of the Lord (Which as we say is the beginning of wisdom) is the attitude according to which the believer lives constantly considering Himself under the watchful and tender gaze of the Lord, concerned with pleasing God with a pure heart. The fear of the Lord is not the attitude of the subject who does not want to be caught transgressing a law, but that of a son who wants to correspond to the love of his father (St. Thomas Aquinas).

Knowing the fear of the Lord means “being conquered by the love of God!” as Pope Francis repeatedly reminds us. This is exactly what we see in Our Lady: at the announcement of the Archangel Gabriel she replied immediately, spontaneously and with free will: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to Thy word.’

Advent is the time of a great announcement: “Behold... Your God,... He comes with power,... He has the reward with Him... His salvation is near!” Advent is the time to mature our fear of the Lord: it is the time to orient ourselves towards seeing Him and being with Him to learn to live constantly in His presence, to let ourselves be conquered by His endless, bountiful and merciful love.

Jesus is about to tell us: Behold, here I am! I am Emmanuel; I am here with you; I am your salvation!

How shall I respond? Am I ready?

Let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to teach us to have the same response as was on her lips at the Annunciation: Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to Thy word.

*  Custody of the Holy Land

By Fr Luke Gregory ofm *