By Deacon Bob McCoy
For The Catholic Messenger
We are surrounded on all sides by the rush to Christmas. This social phenomenon began at Halloween and continues to pick up speed as Christmas day comes closer. We scurry from place to place to pick up this and that as we prepare to celebrate the Christmas holidays. The daylight hours are shorter and seem to close in as we rush about. Those of us who are a little older notice we are not moving as fast as we used to do. We need to pay more attention to the lists we have prepared for shopping and to be aware where we might have left them.
We often miss the message of Advent. The good or bad aspects of consumerism as a way of life can be argued, but it definitely moves us away from the purpose of the Advent season. This is a period of watchful waiting and anticipation of the Lord coming to recharge our spiritual batteries.
It is sometimes difficult to accept this spiritual help because we do not like to wait for anything — even a red light. It is common for many of us to be impatient with ourselves and others we meet during this busy season. Advent is a time to recognize both our longing and the healing love God has for us, despite the barriers we put up between ourselves and God — those times when we make our path rough and crooked.
Advent makes us aware that spiritually we are “between times.” The coming of Jesus on earth has begun the kingdom of God, but it has yet to come in its fullness. Peter reminds us the Lord is patient with us, not wishing any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
The people of John the Baptist’s time were full of anticipation; they flocked to John, this strange man who came out of the desert. Some even wondered if he was the Messiah.
We, too, are called to hear his voice in the desert, in our lives here and now.
“Make ready the way of the Lord, Clear him a straight path. …” The people who heard John originally were familiar with that term, as it was customary for the people to go out and clear and smooth the roads just before a leader of an area made a visit to the region.
The question now for each of us is: “What can I do in my life to prepare for the coming of the kingdom, the mystery of Jesus’ continuing presence with me as I prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth this month?
John very simply gives us the answer as we reflect on his activity going about the region of the Jordan proclaiming a baptism of repentance. John invited the people into the water of the Jordan — calling for their repentance.
Repentance has two sides: turning away from sin and turning to God. To be truly repentant, we must do both. Today this is a call for each of us to, if necessary, change our hearts and prepare for Jesus to be with us more fully in our lives. We might each ask, “Do I pay enough attention to God in my daily life? Do I do anything to help God be more evident to others I come in contact with at home or at work? Do I promote the dignity of all life, regardless of circumstances, as God did by becoming a human being?
John reminds us, as Isaiah the prophet did, “that all mankind shall see the salvation of God.” What a great and joyful promise!!
May we pray that between now and Christmas each of us helps prepare the way of the Lord in our own life and in the life of others. Let us make the salvation of God more evident to all in this time and place of history.