Year B – 2nd Sunday in Advent


(Is.40:1-5, 9-11; 2Pet.3:8-14; Mk.1:1-8)

Sometimes we just need to turn around.

In his book Run with Horses, Eugene Petersen says he was once in his backyard with his lawnmower tipped on its side. He was trying to remove the blade to sharpen it. He attached his biggest wrench to the nut but couldn’t budge it. Then he slipped a long pipe over the wrench handle to give himself leverage, and he leaned on that – still unsuccessfully.

Next, he banged on the pipe with a rock. By this time, he was getting emotionally involved with his lawnmower. Then his neighbour arrived and said he once had a lawnmower like that, and the threads on the bolt probably went the other way. So, Petersen turned it the other way and, sure enough, the nut moved easily. [i]

How often have you struggled and wondered if there’s a better way? It can take humility and courage to change direction.

In today’s Gospel, John the Baptist is in the desert, calling on all to repent and prepare for the coming of Christ. Hordes of people arrive. John knows they are living lives of sin, and that deep down they want to be good people. ‘Repent!’ he says.

Now, many people dislike that word. They think it’s old-fashioned and means hanging our heads in shame. But the Greek word for ‘repentance’ (metanoeo) simply means change – changing the way you think; changing the way you do things.

Some people resist change; they are scared of the unknown. But others embrace change because they see the benefits. They know it helps us grow and learn; they know change can make things better.

And they know that Jesus is coming.

As St Peter says in our second reading, the day of the Lord will come upon us like a thief, when we least expect it. And when that day comes, it’s important that God finds us ready for him, ‘without spot or blemish, and at peace.’ Why? It’s because we’ll all be held accountable for the way we’ve lived our lives.

Are you ready to meet God face to face?

Many of us are not. Fortunately, God is patient. As Peter says, for God, ‘one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day.’ But as Jesus says in Luke 13:5, this task is still urgent, for unless you repent (and change the way you live), you will all perish. 


How then might we change? True repentance always starts with humility: humbly accepting that we’re on the wrong track and that we need to turn back to God. This means breaking free of anything that blocks us from God; anything that entraps our minds and saps our spiritual energy.

We must open our hearts to Jesus, and allow him to change us from within. If you find this hard, then pray to Jesus: ask Him for his help.

Let’s close with a story from Michael Kelley. I was once walking along a road, in no particular direction. I simply followed the friendliness of the path – was there sunshine? Were there potholes? Which way is more inviting? I walked on at my leisure, and then a voice behind me said, ‘Turn…’


I didn’t want to turn around. I wanted to choose the way I should go. Still, the voice made me wonder, so I glanced over my shoulder but saw only darkness. Why would I turn? Why would I choose a different way when I could walk on, using my senses to guide me?

But the voice became more insistent. ‘Turn…’

I looked over my shoulder again to see the speaker, but again only found darkness. It was maddening. Where’s the logic in turning to what I cannot see? So, I stayed on the clear path.


‘Turn to what?’ I answered in frustration, ‘There’s only darkness behind.’ But I couldn’t escape the voice. There was a sense of urgency there, but also kindness. I’d rarely heard such a voice. It was the voice I would use with my own children when I knew something they didn’t. So, I began to turn, but only slightly, and to my dismay, the light shifted.

As I turned, what was behind was no longer shrouded in darkness. Light began to shine slightly. I turned back to the way I was going. Things were still light there. I could still see the way; I could still choose which way to go. But then, glancing back in the opposite direction, I could see more. Bit by bit, I indeed turned. As I did, I saw more and more.

So, I walked the new way, towards the voice. And as I walked, there was more and more light, but it only came with each further step … [ii]

[i] Eugene H Peterson Run with the Horses, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove IL, 2019.

[ii] (abridged)