December 12, 2012 // Uncategorized

Prepare the way of the Lord

The Season of Advent is a time of anticipation and hope. Historically, the primary sanctuary color of Advent is Purple. This is the color of penitence and fasting as well as the color of royalty to welcome the Advent of the King. The nativity, the Incarnation, cannot be separated from the crucifixion. The purpose of Jesus’ coming into the world, of the “Word made flesh” and dwelling among us, is to reveal God and His grace to the world through Jesus’ life and teaching, but also through his suffering, death, and resurrection. It was also during this season that Mary and Joseph made their way to Bethlehem.

We heard in last Sunday’s Gospel that “the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.” Saint John the Baptist proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins throughout the whole region of the Jordan. He lived and preached in the Judean desert, where throngs of people came to hear him and to receive his baptism of repentance.

The prophet Isaiah had foretold “a voice of one crying out in the desert: Prepare the way of the Lord.” John the Baptist was that voice. It was his mission, received from God, to prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. This was the most important thing in his life: to announce Jesus and to help others to welcome Him into their lives.

In Advent, the Church calls out to us with the words of John the Baptist: Prepare the way of the Lord! This Advent season is a time of repentance so that, when Christ comes, we may welcome Him with joy, share in His wisdom, and become one with Him.

It is not insignificant that John’s mission took place in the desert. The Lord comes into the desert of this world, the desert of our lives, to refresh us with the waters of salvation. I recall the words of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, during the homily he gave at his inaugural Mass as Pope:

And there are so many kinds of desert. There is the desert of poverty, the desert of hunger and thirst, the desert of abandonment, of loneliness, of destroyed love. There is the desert of God’s darkness, the emptiness of souls no longer aware of their dignity or the goal of human life. The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast.

The Holy Father went on to say:

The Church… must set out to lead people out of the desert toward the place of life, toward friendship with the Son of God, toward the One who gives us life, and life in abundance.

Amid the many kinds of desert in the world today, especially the internal deserts the Holy Father speaks of, it is our task to lead people out of the desert towards Christ, the source of living waters. This is what John the Baptist did. He prepared the way of the Lord by calling people to repentance and conversion, thus helping them to welcome Jesus into their lives.

In this Year of Faith, we are encouraged to be renewed and reinvigorated in our lives of faith. Before we can help lead other people out of the desert towards friendship with Christ, we must first be led out of the desert ourselves through our own repentance and conversion. We must hear the word of Saint John the Baptist that is also addressed to us: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Before evangelizing others, we must be evangelized ourselves, converted continually to the Lord.

I hope that all of us will experience the peace of conversion and the joy of repentance this Advent, especially through the sacrament of Penance. I cannot think of a better way for us to prepare the way of the Lord in the desert of our own lives. I cannot think of a better way to prepare for Christmas.

One of the joys of being a priest is hearing confessions, being an instrument of God’s merciful love. The joy of giving absolution to a repentant sinner is amazing. There is joy, not only on earth, but in heaven, when someone is restored to God’s grace in the sacrament of Reconciliation. At the end of the parable of the prodigal son, we read about the father explaining to his older son the reason for the joyous celebration when the prodigal son returned home after a time of sinful living: We had to celebrate and rejoice. This brother of yours was dead, and has come back to life. He was lost and is found.

There is truly joy in heaven over one repentant sinner. There is joy in heaven every time we humbly confess our sins in the sacrament of Penance.

The joy of Christmas is that God has sent His Son to us as our Savior. We all need a Savior. Our world needs a Savior. Jesus Christ is our Savior. The very name Mary and Joseph gave their son, at the invitation of the angel, was Yeshua (Jesus), which means God saves.

In these remaining days of Advent, let us heed the words of Saint John the Baptist: Prepare the way of the Lord. Through conversion and repentance, let us clear a straight path for the Lord in our lives. Doing so, we will experience the true joy of Christmas. And that joy also brings peace to our lives. Whenever we do God’s will, we will possess inner joy and peace, even in the midst of adversity. We are called to share that joy and peace with others, especially through our love for them. The joy of Christmas is alive in us when we live our faith in charity. Christian joy springs from love, love of God and love of neighbor.

As we approach Christmas, let us remember that God became man that we might have life and have it to the full. The Son of God took on our human nature to save us from sin and death. At Christmas, we will hear again the words of the angel to the shepherds: For today in the city of David a Savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord. This is the reason for our joy, the true joy of Christmas!


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