December 2, 2014 // Uncategorized

‘Prepare the way of the Lord’

This painting by the Dutch painter Rembrandt from 1634 depicts St. John the Baptist preaching.

In this season of Advent, we frequently encounter in the readings of the liturgy the austere figure of Saint John the Baptist, the Precursor of the Lord. He preached in the wilderness of Judea. His mission was to prepare and clear the way for the Lord. He called the people to repent of their sins and to correct every injustice.

During these weeks of Advent, while we prepare for the celebration of Christmas, it is important that we hear the voice of John the Baptist and respond to his appeal for conversion. In this holy season, through the voice of John, the Church invites us to open our hearts to receive the Son of God. Unfortunately, we can easily lose the focus of faith during these weeks before Christmas and fall into the materialistic mindset of our culture. We must not allow the voice of John the Baptist to be drowned out by the noise around us.

Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths. These words of Isaiah foretold the message and mission of John the Baptist. This call to prepare the way of the Lord and to make straight His paths was urgent and is still urgent. God came in the Person of His Son when the Word became flesh. This is what we celebrate at Christmas. He still comes today. The Lord invites us to receive Him and His gift of salvation. God invites us to accept His Son into our lives, to be His disciples in the world today.

What does it mean to make straight His paths? There are so many crooked paths that we can be tempted to walk. We can get off track in our Christian lives, falling into sin, walking along roads that deviate from our faith. There are many temptations to stray from the path of the Lord and to get lost along the way, to stray from the Gospel. During Advent, it is good to make straight the path of the Lord in our hearts by examining our lives, clearing the way for the Lord to act in us with His grace. It is important to look at our lives and to see where our choices and actions have not been in harmony with the Gospel. The sacrament of Penance is a great way for all of us to heed the call of John the Baptist to repentance and conversion.

Advent is a season of commitment and conversion in preparation for the Lord’s coming. It is also a time of joy since we are preparing for the celebration of Our Savior’s birth. This joy comes from faith in the Incarnation, in the fact that Jesus brings us salvation. In the midst of so much darkness in our world, we see light, the light of Christ that overcomes the darkness of sin, selfishness, and death. The Lord comes. He is not a distant God; He is Emmanuel (God-with-us). This is the cause of our joy, the true joy of Christmas that God not only exists, but that He comes to us and is close to us always. He came to earth to be with us and to share in our human condition. He came to save us and He is with us even now. He is with us in the Church and in the Holy Eucharist. He is always at our side, no matter the challenges and problems we encounter. He loves us and He saves us.

To experience the true joy and peace of Christmas, we need to prepare ourselves during these weeks of Advent. I mentioned that confession is a great way to prepare for Christmas. Prayer is also so important. Maybe you can find some time to attend a few daily Masses during Advent, a great way to put the focus on the true meaning of Christmas. We can so easily get caught up in the secularism of our culture’s observance of Christmas, including the materialism that surrounds us. In a consumer society, we can be tempted to seek joy in things, but things really do not bring us fulfillment. When we neglect the spiritual, we end up living Christmas as a merely external holiday. It is so much more: it is the feast of the Son of God who came to bring us peace, life, and true joy.

Besides confession and prayer, I would like to recommend an act of charity as a way to prepare the way of the Lord and to observe the true meaning of Christmas. There are many opportunities to give a gift to the poor and needy during this season, or to make a visit to someone who is sick or lonely. To practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, to reach out to those in need, is an integral part of our faith. To be mindful of those who are hurting and to bring them Christ’s love is a great way to live the true meaning of Christmas.

During these weeks of Advent, let us make sure that we listen to the voice of John the Baptist so as to make room for Jesus, the Word who saves us, and to welcome Him into our hearts. Let us keep our focus on the Child in the manger and make sure that we preserve the primacy of God in our life.

This week we will celebrate two beautiful feasts of Mary: the Immaculate Conception on December 8th and Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12th. Mary is the Virgin of Advent. She awaited and prepared silently and prayerfully for the birth of her Son. May she intercede for us, that we will be ready to receive anew, in our hearts and in our whole lives, our Savior, Christ the Lord!

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