“John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins…. “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths” – Luke 3:3-4
The church slowly filled that chilly December morning. Parishioners found their usual seats; neighbors greeted neighbors; altar servers lit candles; singers opened choir books; parents shushed fidgety children.
In the back, a young man stood alone, dressed in well-worn jeans, leather belt, a bushy jacket about his shoulders, sandals on his feet. Just as Mass was to begin, he picked up a wooden staff and began walking quickly up the central aisle. “PREPARE THE WAY OF THE LORD,” he shouted repeatedly! “MAKE STRAIGHT HIS PATHS!” Faces turned with expressions of indignation, confusion, laughter, or fear. As he reached the altar, the young man turned, faced the congregation, and once again proclaimed: “Prepare the way of the Lord!” As he walked away, the Celebrant intoned: “In the name of the Father…”
Some parishioners later complained it was too theatrical; some said it was not prayerful. But many said it was “…as if they were hearing the Gospel for the very first time.”
“It was as if the message was meant just for me!”
“I thought it was just a stunt until my 8-year old asked me how we were going to prepare for Jesus, and I couldn’t answer her.”
“I was never before so wide awake for the readings and homily.”
Today, once again, we are challenged to hear and respond to the Gospel proclamation. Who has helped me hear the Gospel message as if for the first time? What mountains and valleys have I faced – with faith – this past pandemic year? Who were the people (family? friends? teachers? students? neighbors?) who prepared me to make straight my paths? Have I stepped in to help smooth someone else’s rough road? How, exactly, will I prepare the way of the Lord this Advent season?
The first reading today explains exactly why we prepare the way of the Lord, why we struggle with the mountains and hills of our life, straightening winding roads, and smoothing rough ways. We prepare the road so we might walk forward with God, who leads us in joy, with mercy and justice for company. (Baruch 5:7, 9).
Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus! Help us prepare to walk forward with You in joy, and may mercy and justice be our companions.
Michael Buckley & Jeannette Suflita
To view the full Advent 2021 booklet in English, click here.
For Spanish, click here.
For French, click here.