The two main Gospel figures who represent the season of Advent are John the Baptist and the Blessed Virgin Mary. This Sunday, our Gospel tells of the beginnings of the ministry of John the Baptist. Everything about John’s life is ultimately about Jesus. The annunciation of his birth prepares for the Annunciation of Jesus to Mary. His birth is preparation for the birth of Jesus. John’s ministry is preparation for the ministry of Jesus. And John’s martyrdom is preparation for the Crucifixion of Jesus.
Advent is a time of waiting and preparing. Throughout the Old Testament, prophecies were made about a Messiah who would be a son of King David, who would come to redeem Israel. John, although in the New Testament, is known as the last of the Old Testament prophets because he came before Christ, being the one prophet who would actually see all of those prophecies fulfilled.
The Gospel of Luke (which we read from this Sunday) situates John’s ministry in a very specific time and place. We are told that it was during the 15th year of the reign of Tiberias Caesar (29 AD) when Pontius Pilate was governor and King Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, during the priesthood of Annas and Caiphas. Luke is going out of his way to be specific so that we know exactly when this took place. We are also told that the Word of God came to John in the wilderness and that he spent his time wandering in the territory of the Jordan River.
Here he begins his proclamation, “Prepare the way of the Lord!” This message is held up for us during this Advent season. We must use this time, not only to prepare our homes, to buy and wrap our gifts, to send out our Christmas cards and to organize our parties. We are to prepare the way of the Lord, first of all in our own hearts, and into the world.
If you are having guests for Christmas, then you will work hard to make your home ready to receive them and to make their visit with you a time of joy and blessing. How hard will you work during this Advent season to prepare to welcome Jesus as your guest in your heart? Will you take the time to make sure that it is washed clean of all sin, to be a worthy place for him to come? Will you decorate it with acts of kindness and piety so that it will be a place of beauty and joy? Perhaps we can spend some extra time in prayer, praying the rosary, or reading the Infancy Narratives in chapters 1 and 2 of the Gospels of Saint Matthew and Saint Luke.
How can we prepare the way of the Lord into our world? We can be aware of those who are needy and less fortunate than ourselves and look for opportunities to demonstrate for them the love that Christ has for them. We can do this within our own families, reaching out to any family members who are alienated, or who are confined to hospitals or nursing facilities.
Make sure to use this time for your own spiritual growth.
Fr. Mike Comer