“Prepare the way of the Lord!”
We hear this regularly in Advent, but what exactly does this look like? We have the familiar image of St. John the Baptist literally preparing the way of the Lord by announcing his coming. He is referenced in the Gospel today as the one prophesied by Isaiah: “Behold I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way.” John prepared the world for the coming of the Christ. How do we prepare the way of the Lord?
God offers us several ways that we can prepare the way of the Lord through Isaiah in today’s first reading (Is 40:1-5, 9-11):
- “Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!” Do we waste time on a regular basis? When we look at how we spend our time, do we see periods of wasteland? Advent gives us a good opportunity to do something productive during those times. Even if it’s just 10 or 15 minutes spent doing spiritual reading or praying the rosary, it is an experience of being productive (like building a road) rather than wasteful.
- “Every valley shall be filled in.” In December, our rectory receives calls from people who are in different financial valleys as they approach Christmas. Most of these folks are worried about getting presents for their kids because they didn’t sign up for the Outreach Center’s toy giveaway and have nowhere else to turn. Thankfully, donors have already offered to help families in these emergency situations and get their children personalized gifts. Be generous and thoughtful in your almsgiving this Advent!
- “Every mountain and hill shall be made low.” The woman who leads our new monthly Holy Spirit Rosary told me that someone she prayed with the last time she was here received a physical healing. Her hip pain had disappeared!
If I were to ask you what mountains or hills you have in your life now, many of you would say physical pain or ailments. Whether our mountains are physical, emotional, or personal, God can make them low (or even remove them altogether)! If we are alert and awake in our faith, then we are open to the graces –sometimes miraculous – that God wants to give.
- “The rugged land shall be made a plain.” Is there a rough or rugged situation in your life right now? Is there someone from whom you need to ask forgiveness? Is there someone you need to forgive?
- “Go up onto a high mountain, Zion, herald of glad tidings; cry out at the top of your voice, Jerusalem, herald of good news! Fear not to cry out.” Last weekend, we had a spectacular wedding here involving a young couple. The bride and groom selected our church because they said it is “the most beautiful church we’ve ever seen.” Her family has visited here a few times, and has fallen in love with our congregation. We received rave reviews from the wedding crowd who had an incredibly positive experience of church here. We had evangelized them with our joy, warmth, hospitality, and faith. Yes, I went a little John the Baptist on them in the homily and preached the truth which they said was inspiring. But, that was after they heard the stories of your joyful and loving spirit, encountered your kindness in and around the church, and saw a bunch of my smiles (I’m a proud papa at weddings, baptisms, confirmations, and first Holy Communions). By the time I said a word about marriage or faith during the wedding, we had already evangelized them!
Evangelize your family this Advent and Christmas. I don’t mean to speak to them at the top of your voice. I mean to be a herald of glad tidings. Show them a joyful or forgiving spirit that is uniquely Christian. That could very well be the precursor for them asking about the good news of the Gospel. In this way, you will prepare the way of the Lord!
May you know the peace of Christ,