Isaiah 40; 1-5, 9-11, 2 Peter 3:8-14, Mark 1: 1 – 8
On this second Sunday of Advent John the Baptist makes an appearance and shouts out to us; “prepare the way of the Lord!” This is the fulfillment of a prophecy from Isaiah seven hundred years earlier when Isaiah is told the people of Israel that when it is the time of the Messiah’s coming a voice will cry out to prepare them. Isaiah told the people to make a highway for the Lord. I think of this image often when I drive through or near a highway construction project. I’m amazed at how a mountainous area can end up with a straight highway after the hills are leveled and bridges are built over rivers and ravines. Imagine what it took to build a highway 2,700 years ago during the time of Isaiah. The image of building a highway for the Lord was even more spectacular when you think of the work that was done without heavy equipment.
When John the Baptist makes the announcement to get ready for the Lord he makes it clear that the highway for the Lord leads to our hearts. John the Baptist takes his prophetic call seriously and lives a life of prayer and fasting. His message is a simple message, “repent.” He does a baptism of repentance for those who accept his call. A baptism that is meant to prepare them to recognize and accept Jesus as Messiah and Lord. John was a charismatic figure whose deep faith, austere life-style, and bold message attracted people. Some had their brief time in his presence watching him, listening to him, and repenting before moving on changed because of their encounter with him. Others came and remained with John as his disciples. John could easily have basked in the fame and following he had, but he did not lose sight of his call. He was called, not to be the Messiah, but to prepare the way for Him, and he did this dutifully and humbly.
This leads us to ask ourselves the question, “How am I doing at preparing the way of the Lord, by building that highway for the Lord to get into my heart?” No matter what God has called us to it takes humility, sincerity of heart, and fortitude to do it well. It involves filling in the emptiness of valley, and cutting away the mountains that blind us. It means removing detours that we sometimes take so as to avoid conversion, and removing the toll booths that we put up to make travel costly. In doing this well we are making way for the Lord. The Lord doesn’t limit his visits to us to Christmas. He is present to us always and the more we work on our highway the easier it is for us to see him.
Ideally each of us becomes a John the Baptist in that others may be pointed in the direction of Jesus because of us. This takes imitating John’s humility and the seriousness in which he took his call. John realized that it wasn’t all about him. This is something that we should also realize when we look at the highway. It’s not about us, it is about Jesus coming to us. It’s not about us, its about Jesus and our humbling ourselves by not trying to have the light shine on us, but to shine on Jesus.
This second Sunday of Advent is a good time to take to heart both the message and the example of John the Baptist. As we sing “Maranatha, Come, Lord Jesus” we will have a highway for him to come to our hearts, and we will have the humility to point others to Jesus.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.