Prepare the Way of the Lord
Isaiah speaks God’s reassurance to the people. He is coming. A clear road is being prepared. Valleys will be filled. Mountains will be leveled. Rugged land will be made a smooth plain. The glory of the Lord will be revealed to all. The Lord is coming with power and he will lead his flock like a shepherd. (Is 40:1-5, 9-11)
This time of preparation for the coming of the Lord is not all sweetness and stability. Far from it…
Major changes are underway to make the Lord’s coming possible. Barriers must fall. Valleys and canyons of all sorts into which the unwary might fall or get lost must be filled. The distractions and upheaval of the world we experience even today are part of the process of preparing for the Lord to come into our world.
It’s good to reflect on the mountains and canyons we face in our everyday lives. What are they? Where and when do we find them? How do they get in the way of our living in preparation for the Lord to come into our homes, our schools, our workplaces, our faith communities? Where and what are the rocks that block the road and need to be moved aside? Where are the winding roads that meander slowly along and never quite arrive at our destination? How could they be made straighter?
When the Lord comes, peace will also arrive. The psalmist sings of the Lord’s promise of peace. (Ps 85) “Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss.” Justice comes with the Lord, looking down from heaven and walking before him, preparing the way for his coming.
Yet the Lord doesn’t barge into our lives and demand that we be ready at the slightest instant. He doesn’t rush the process of preparation and growth we humans need. He is patient, waiting for all to have time to prepare. St. Peter advises us to behave with holiness and devotion for the day of the Lord that is coming. “Be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.” (2 Pt 3:8-14)
And then, at the appointed time, the voice from the wilderness will cry out to us. We too will hear the voice calling to us. John the Baptist appeared in the desert. Mark begins his Gospel not with the coming of a baby but with a reminder that the Lord promised first to send a messenger, crying out to prepare the way of the Lord. (Mk 1:1-8) That messenger was John, a prophet who called people to repentance. He baptized them in the river, plunging them into the water and symbolically washing them clean of their sins.
John never claimed to be the one who was to come. He promised that another one was coming, a mighty one. One who would baptize with the Holy Spirit, the very breath of God.
We too hear these words. The mightier one has come in history. When and how will he come into my life and yours, with the Holy breath of God to enliven our hearts and send us out to help fill in the valleys and level the mountains that still stand in the way of the coming of the Lord? When will we receive and accept the call to make way for the Lord? How will we be bearers of peace for our world?
Prepare the way of the Lord!
Readings for the Second Sunday of Advent – Cycle B