Prepare the way
FR. TOM'S HOMILY FOR THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT, December 6, 2020:
Back in my seminary days we did a production of the musical Godspell. I was recently listening to the wonderful music from the show, and thinking of it today because the musical begins with the same cry that we hear from both Isaiah and John the Baptist today, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” Advent is our annual season of preparation; it is a a season of waiting, as we prepare ourselves for the celebration of Christmas, the great feast of God’s Incarnation as one of us; and we await His future return to us at the End of Time.
In life we are certainly used to waiting. Just think of the hours spent waiting in traffic. In a normal year, we would be thinking about the time spent waiting in line at stores doing our Christmas shopping. We’ve replaced that waiting with other kinds of waiting – waiting to take a COVID test, waiting for the results, waiting for the vaccine to become available – just waiting for all of this to be over. A lot of waiting – like in traffic or at a store - are not purposeful. They’re usually not worth the wait.
During Advent, we ask the same question – is it worth the wait – but with a very different answer. The prayerful waiting we engage during Advent is indeed worth the wait because instead of a frustrating wait with undefined benefit, our Scripture today call us to wait in a purposeful way. And Scripture gives us something to do in our waiting, we are to “Prepare the way of the Lord.” The readings put before us some examples of waiting purposefully. We have of course, Isaiah and John the Baptist who both offer us a waiting that involves reform of life, they call us to prepare for the arrival of Jesus by living a life of repentance. They call us to reflect on our own lives and ask “are we ready for Jesus return?” But, there is another Advent example that I find even more helpful in understanding how we are to wait – the example of Mary.
If we look at our Scriptures as a story, at this point in the story, Mary is pregnant awaiting the birth of the baby Jesus. We can learn a lot about purposeful waiting from pregnancy. Pregnancy is all about waiting. I remember a few years ago, I was visiting with a friend and his wife who shared the news that they were expecting their third child. I responded excitedly, “Congratulations! That’s great! You must be so excited!” But to my enthusiasm, my friend’s wife looked at me, rolled her eyes a bit, sighed and said, “Don’t get me wrong. I’m really excited about having another baby. I just wish I could do it without going through pregnancy.” We tend to romanticize pregnancy don’t we? Pregnancy is so beautiful. Women look so radiant. But, for my friend’s wife, and many women like her, pregnancies are difficult. With her two prior pregnancies, they were so difficult that she had to remain in bed during the final months. She experienced serious medical issues during her last pregnancy. For this third child, she was also very closely monitored.
The simple point is that being pregnant is not easy and can even be quite difficult, but it is worth the wait. And it is I think the most helpful image for our time of Advent waiting and preparing. We, too, all of us, are in a spiritual sense pregnant and waiting – waiting to give birth once again to Jesus in our lives. And so, God calls us all to make real change in our lives; to acknowledge His Son and “make straight our paths.”
As God calls each of us to reform our lives, depending on what we need to change, this might be for us a difficult time. But, if we can wait and prepare, it will bring forth new and wonderful life – but it takes time, it takes patience, it takes the will to be transformed into the image that God calls us to.
So we continue to wait in the midst of this Advent-tide. Is our waiting purposeful? With the days we have ahead of us, create space in your life every day to be present to God. Allow Him to prepare your soul. Pope Emeritus Benedict said a few years ago, “Do you leave space to hear God's whisper, calling you forth into goodness? Let His word shape your journey."
Prepare by embracing all that the Sacraments have to offer. Allow God to cleanse you in Reconciliation. Allow God to nourish you through the Eucharist and be transformed into the very Presence of Christ you receive.
And reach out to others. Reach out to those who don't know Christ. Reach out to those who are suffering. As we reach out to them, we too come closer to Christ.
Let us pray through the intercession of Mary, Mother of God, Mother of the Church, for the patience and the courage to allow God to create new life in us – as individuals, as a parish community, as a Church. Let us use this time of Advent to “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”
May the Lord give you peace.
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