John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mark 1:4)
Last Sunday, we began a new season in the Church, the season of Advent, a time of vigilant preparation for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Last Sunday, we heard Jesus saying: “Watch, therefore, for you do not know when the Master of the house will come.” Today, our readings provide further steps we must take as we prepare for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
*1. Spiritual Road Construction*
The prophet Isaiah says: “Every valley shall be lifted and every mountain and hill shall be made low, the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places shall be made plain.” The valleys to be lifted represent the good things we ought to do that we have failed to do. The mountains and hills to be made low are our bad habits, sinful inclinations and evil deeds that must be removed to allow the baby Jesus to enter our lives.
The uneven ground and rough places represent a prayer life that is not consistent; active when we are in difficulty and non-existent when things are moving smoothly. Prayer is a relationship. It does not begin and end with words; it extends to our daily choices. St. Peter tells us in our second reading: “Be zealous to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.” (2 Peter 3:14).
*2. John the Baptist: A Model for Advent*
In today’s Gospel passage, St. Mark introduces us to a man whose entire life on earth was a preparation for Christ. He is John the Baptist, the one whom the Prophet Isaiah spoke of as the voice crying in the wilderness. Let us now consider what John the Baptist teaches us in our preparation for Christmas.
A. Go For Confession.
Mark tells us that the whole country of Judea and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him and were baptised by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Indeed, the best preparation we can have for Christmas is to go for confession with a genuine resolve, never to go back to our sins again.
B. Be Detached From Material Things.
In preparing the way for Christ, John the Baptist lived a very simple life of poverty. We are told he was “clothed with camel’s hair and had a leather girdle around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey.” The lifestyle of John the Baptist clearly shows how we should treat worldly things. No wonder our opening prayer at mass today says: “May no earthly undertaking hinder those who set out in haste to meet your son.” This is not a time for us to get engrossed in worldliness; it is a time to focus on Jesus.
C. Focus on Jesus.
John the Baptist used his popularity to draw attention to Jesus. He said: “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” Dear friends, everything we do during this season should point to Jesus Christ. Don’t just hang decorations in your house; let the picture of Jesus be big and bold. What is the essence of putting lights everywhere and buying an expensive Christmas tree if Jesus himself is nowhere to be found?
*3. Gratitude and Thanksgiving.*
Apart from the above points outlined in today’s readings, a very important way to prepare for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ is gratitude. The saying goes thus: “If you cannot be grateful for what you have, at least be grateful for what you do not have.” If you find it difficult to count your blessings or perhaps feel God has not done anything for you, consider the misfortunes that have befallen others around you.
Consider those who died this year, victims of terrorism, hunger or natural disaster. Consider those still in the hospital, those who lost their jobs, their businesses or their livelihood; consider those in prison for crimes they didn’t commit, those who became victims of cult clashes, and those who died protesting for an end to police brutality. We can go on and on. Do you know that you are not better than any of them? The same road you passed, others passed and were kidnapped, some had serious accidents and are now living with permanent disabilities, but here we are still complaining.
Thanksgiving without gratitude is empty. Take time to examine what you are grateful for and ask yourself: “If I were to pay for these things, how much would it be?” That should tell you that whatever you are offering to God as thanksgiving is nothing compared to what He has given to you already. Children of God, let us rise to our feet and praise God for this year. Let us count our blessings and tell God, “Thank You.”
Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, create in me a pure heart, renew my spirit. Give me the courage to clear off my mountains of sin and power to fill my valleys of weakness and limitation. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.
Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11, Ps. 85:9-14, 2 Peter 3:8-14, Mark 1:1-8).*
@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu