Advent offers a liturgical season when following the lectionary can have it adapted for a rather mixed group of pre-catechumenate and catechumens. All of the texts should help to turn thoughts away from the glitz of commercialism that try to smother the individual senses as we walk through our local towns. Now the lighting of Christmas lights and Christmas trees postdates even Advent in many localities.
For the second week of advent, the reading from Baruch 5:1-9, tells us to take off our dress of sorrow and to put on the clothes of glory. This is a glory attained by practising right values: ‘ peace through integrity, and honour through devotedness’, So for all it is a time to think of anything that fractures our relationship with Christ or that distances us from his loving gaze.
World events with questions of how to treat migrants and refugees; whether to back military action by our own politicians; how to respond in our feelings towards those who commit acts of terrorists…. There are no shortage of ethical issues to discuss.
In the Gospel (Luke 3:1-6) which introduces John the Baptist as a prophet calling out to everyone to experience a baptism of repentance, there is the chance to talk of the difference of this pre Christian baptism with that which the catechumens will experience in the living waters at the Easter Vigil. Pope Francis said that ‘..whenever new peoples become members of God’s family’ they are children who …’flourish like grass and luxuriant willows.’ * – It is easy to see why John the Baptist got inspiration from living close to nature.
Why not invite someone who has celebrated the sacrament of their adult baptism in the past couple of years to join your next session and give a testimony about the change their baptism has made to their life.
Luke makes a point of setting John the Baptist in realtime history, in the reign of Tiberius Caesar, and a time when Pontius Pilate was Governor, the same Governor who is going to authorise the crucifixion of Jesus at the end of Jesus’ ministry. Why not use time in the session to invite people to share their experience of their history: where they have come from and where they are are now in their life experience.
This is a time when the parish can help the RCIA group, by showing this is a period of Preparation for the Lord’s coming: that it is Advent and not yet Christmas.
For those who keep journals encourage them to make comments about what Advent means for them. They will be able to see a real contrast when they write of what they experience at Christmas.
*Pope Francis Homily at the University of Nairobi on his trip to Kenya November 26 2015
** ALLORI, Alessandro The Preaching of St John the Baptist 1601-03 Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence