By Mary Jacobsen
For The Catholic Messenger
In this Sunday’s Gospel, we hear the story of John the Baptist, the beloved cousin of Jesus Christ, fulfilling his duty as one “sent from God” to “make straight the way of the Lord.” Many flocked to see him and to ask if he was the Christ. Of course, he says no; he has been sent by God to prepare the world for the Messiah by baptizing and preaching.
Oftentimes when I hear this reading, I think of the musical “Godspell,” and one of its opening numbers, “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord.” The character of John the Baptist acclaims the song to the whole city and people come running to him, singing and dancing together before going into the fountain at the park — their baptism with water. When Jesus arrives at the end of the scene, everyone happily throws away their goods with childlike glee as they go to follow him.
It is a truly beautiful scene showing what it is like to wait for the Lord, preparing for him with such joy and anticipation. The people do what they can as they wait for the coming of the Messiah. John the Baptist helps by baptizing them with water, a preparation for the baptism Christ will give when he comes – a baptism with the Holy Spirit. The people are excited as they anxiously await the coming of Christ.
How do we “prepare the way of the Lord?” How do we “make straight his path?” We don’t need to go as far as John the Baptist, who lived in the desert eating locusts and honey. We don’t need to throw away everything we own as Jesus’ disciples did.
There is still so much more we can do. Our baptism prepares us for this long journey of preparing for Christ. With the gifts of the Holy Spirit we receive at baptism, and with the love and mercy of God on our side, we can spread the good news to everyone around us.
Our actions and words matter. Are we spreading the good news, and are we preparing the way of the Lord for others by what we do and say? Are we spreading the same childlike glee to others as we await the triumphant return of the Lord, the same excitement a child has as she or he awaits the arrival of gifts from Santa Claus?
The way we treat others matters. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ, and we are to look upon one another as another self, as the Catechism tells us. Do we treat others in that way? Do we love one another as Christ commands us?
The way we treat ourselves matters. Are you making sure you are looking out for yourself and treating yourself with the kindness and respect you deserve? This can be hard to do in these stressful times, when it seems like we are in a constant rush. Taking time to breathe and having self-care is important.
The way we handle our relationship with God matters. In these busy times, it can seem difficult to take time out of our schedule to talk to God. However, God is always waiting, and God always has time for us. Even if it is just for a few minutes, these times with God can strengthen our relationship and thus help us on our quest of preparing the way of the Lord.
Advent is a reminder to us that we are in a constant season of waiting and preparing. How are you preparing the way of the Lord in your own life?
(Mary Jacobsen is recent graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport (December ’20), and a parishioner at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport.)