Reflections for the Week
Preparing the Way of the Lord
John the Baptist preaches in the desert, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” John fulfils the prophecy of Isaiah.
Preparation, which translates into repentance, comes as a personal response to the coming of the Kingdom of God. It is no longer I who rule over my life, but God. I belong to God, to God’s Kingdom, not to myself. I behave and relate to others according to God’s expectations.
John the Baptist has a large audience. People from the city of Jerusalem and the whole of Judea and the region around the Jordan come for baptism. John welcomes them all. But when he sees the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for the same purpose, John challenges them to produce evidence of their conversion. They must be
sincere. His baptism is not for the records, not for show, but should signify their turning around from old and cunning ways like those of the serpent that made Adam and Eve fall. They must shed off their hypocrisy.
Repentant people readily accept Jesus when he speaks. They will not distract others by their philosophising,
justification or grandstanding. They will examine their conscience where they have fallen short of his love. They easily learn what God or the Church wants from them.
365 Days with the Lord Cielito Almazan OFM
Written Long Ago
A teacher once asked her class of ten-year olds: “What would you do if one day there was a knock on your front door and when you opened if you found Our Lord standing on the doorstep?” One little boy knew what he would do. “I’d run upstairs, Miss,” he said, “and I’d get the big Bible from my Mum’s room and I’d hand it over to Our Lord and I’d say: ‘Jesus, this is your life!’” The boy was closer to the mark than his teacher may have realised. Of course, something like three-quarters of the Bible was written before Jesus was born - it’s the part we call the Old Testament, the part which usually provides the first of our Sunday readings. Naturally, the Old Testament can’t speak directly of Jesus’ life and teachings, and yet without it our understanding of him would be impoverished; without it, his life’s story would have no context, it would seem to have been parachuted in from nowhere. We’d be meeting him in two dimensions rather than three, so to say, in black and white rather than in colour. St Paul says that “everything that was written long ago in the scriptures” - he’s thinking, of course, of the Old Testament - “was meant to teach us.” It has not lost its significance. The point is perfectly illustrated in the readings we’ve heard today.
In the first, Isaiah, who lived eight centuries before the birth of Christ, looks towards a time when God’s people will rejoice in a ruler on whom the Spirit of the Lord will rest, who will rule with justice, who will bring peace, who will fill the country with knowledge of the Lord. The responsorial psalm, also from the Old Testament, takes up the same theme - a coming King who will rule “from sea to sea,” who “will save the poor and the needy” and “have pity on the weak” and in whose days “justice will flourish.” When we turn to the gospel, there is John the Baptist crying out: “Repent, the kingdom of Heaven is close at hand.” and if the kingdom is close, so too is its king, the king that was promised long ago. In other words, the promises of old are about to be fulfilled. And so the call goes out: Make ready for the coming of the King! Without the Old Testament we would never have known how perfectly Jesus fulfils the hopes and yearnings of men and women who lived long before him. It would be like hearing the climax of the story of our salvation without hearing the lead-in - the final chapter without the first.
In Advent we are invited to share in the longings and yearnings of Old Testament times so that we may celebrate worthily the birth of the King at Christmas. The Infant of the stable is the fulfillment of the whole of the Old Testament, the realisation of everyone's hopes and dreams, and he is also destined to come again in glory at the end of time. We are to repent, says John the Baptist: that means that we’re to have a change of heart. It may well result in our finding a little extra time for prayer and scripture reading during these days before Christmas, but the main part of the preparation will be the way we lead our daily lives. After insisting that “everything written long ago in the scriptures was meant to teach us,” Paul sets before his readers some very practical consequences of listening to the scriptures; you must live together in harmony, he says, striving “to treat each other in the same friendly way as Christ treated you” - apparently squabbles were not unknown among the early Christians! A similar appeal is made to us today: how can we be ready to receive the Prince of Peace if we are not at peace with our brothers and sisters?
But there is something more. Paul speaks of the immense hope that the scriptures bring, for they are centred upon Jesus who is the God of hope in our midst. And so Paul concludes with a prayer - unfortunately not included in today’s reading - a beautiful prayer that we might make our own on this Advent Sunday. “May the God of hope fill [us] with all joy and peace in [our] faith, so that in the power of the Holy Spirit we may be rich in hope.” (Romans 15:13) Amen.
The Living Word Redemptorist Publications
Seeking peace and quiet during the hustle and bustle of Advent? Adoration is a good way to prepare for Christ’s return. The act of coming to adore the Lord in the Eucharist echoes preparation of coming to adore the Lord at the nativity and his second coming. It gives us a chance to prepare and be at peace, which is the whole focus of Advent itself. Adoration is held on each Saturday of Advent in the Prayer Room, from 9:30am to Benediction at 5:30pm. All welcome!
Fr Bill's Thoughts