Your God is coming – prepare the way of the Lord – 7 December 2014
Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
2 Peter 3:8-14
Some years ago a relative of mine became a pen pal of a young man from another country. After some time he decided to visit her and when she saw him for the first time her reaction was – ‘I could never marry him’. So as he was about to leave she told him that there was no point in continuing writing to each other. But he begged her to write for some time at least. Then she had to go to his country to study and decided to visit him and after the visit she was more convinced that she should finish the friendship. She wrote to him telling him this and he asked to be allowed to visit her one more time. He came and her reaction was the same. He’s not for me. One day during the visit as she was out shopping with him, she said to me “At a certain moment I saw him in a very different way to how I saw him before. I saw him in a completely new way and fell in love with him”. They eventually got married and recently celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary.
“I saw him in a completely new way” which is what John the Baptist speaks about in the gospel today. At the river Jordan, John asked the people to repent and change their ways by confessing their sins. The word ‘repentance’ means to change completely or “to see things in a completely new way”. If we do, our actions will change as a result of our new way of seeing things. Just as my relative saw the young man in a completely new way and decided to marry him, when we receive the grace of conversion we see things in a new way and our actions follow.
So if we feel called to change a particular behavior in our life like being more patient or more forgiving, we may find it almost impossible if we don’t see things in a new way. Our actions follow our way of seeing things. If, for example being a Christian for me means going to Mass every Sunday and saying my morning and night prayers, I might be living the rest of the time in a very careless, even non-Christian way but if I get the grace of repentance or conversion and feel the call to a deeper and more intimate relationship or friendship with Jesus then I will see things in a new way and because of this my actions will change. Now I may see that the way I drive my car must be that of a follower of Jesus, or the way I treat people or I may feel called to give some time to visiting the sick or giving alms.
This Advent Sunday maybe the call from God to me is to a deeper conversion to him. We are invited to look into ourselves and see our sinfulness. It invites us to ask ourselves – what is really important to us? What are our priorities in life? Who is Jesus for us? The three readings today are telling us that if our lives are lived far from the teaching of Christ, we should do something about it.
We are invited to approach the sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession. I have seen people really changed due to it. If celebrated properly we not only acknowledge to God our sinfulness but also our great need of his help, e.g. the Holy Spirit. It may help us to see the areas of our lives where we are unfree and get the grace to experience a greater freedom. God loves us and wants to bless us, to free us, to make us happy but if our lives are full of what is not of God how do we make space for him? I myself feel the need to go to Confession regularly as I know that I need to acknowledge my sinfulness straight out to God and ask for his Spirit to help me live closer to Jesus. Then like John the Baptist in today’s gospel we will truly be “preparers of the Way of the Lord” for others. God wants others to know about Jesus. What a Christmas present to give to Jesus to allow him to convert us to see things in a new way and allow him to use us as he wishes.
Finally, the gospel of Mark, which we heard just now, starts like this: “The beginning of the Good News about Jesus Christ, the Son of God”. The Greek word for ‘Good News’ is “Evangelium’ which is used to tell people that Emperor is to be crowned. Remember it is the beginning of the Good News. Jesus, our emperor, will indeed be crowned, but with thorns but it will lead to his being glorified in heaven, through his resurrection and ascension and sending of the Spirit. We, like John the Baptist are called to proclaim this Good News.
“Lord Jesus thank you for inviting us to repent so that seeing things in a new way, we may change those things in our lives which leave us unfree and also prevent us from truly proclaiming, like John the Baptist, that you are the Good News, not a place or a thing but a Person and you invite us to a deep, personal relationship with you. Amen”
Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA