PREPARING THE WAY FOR THE LORD IN MY LIFE!
Advent is a season of HOPE. Hope is such an important Christian virtue. Hope is more than optimism. We can be optimistic about all kinds of things, but, strictly speaking, the object of hope is always God. Hope is rooted in faith. We are hopeful because we believe in a God who can bring life out of death, light out of darkness. It is above all in dark times that we need hope. As well as the dark days, the times have been dark recently. Times are difficult for nations; people have lost jobs, and those who have jobs are faced with the prospect of cuts in salary. There is a great deal of unrest and violence around. Times have also been traumatic and distressing for all of us who feel part of the church. In these dark days and dark times, Advent, the season of hope, is very timely.
Advent is the time of the year in the Church which is like a miniature expression of the time of our whole lives. We must always be ready to meet the Lord. We must always be prepared for his coming. The grace of Advent helps us to prepare for the coming of Christ in the feast of Christmas as we should spend our lives preparing to meet the Lord in glory. The Word of God which is powerful comes to us in the Sacred Scriptures and in the living Tradition of the Church. During Advent we can make a conscious daily decision to receive this Word which teaches us and empowers us to prepare for the coming of the Lord.
- Change your thinking! Change yourself! Once there was a king who ruled over a prosperous country. One day he went on a trip to some distant areas of his country. When he came back to his palace, he complained that his feet were very sore because it was the first time that he gone on such a long trip, and the road he went through was very rough and stony. He then ordered his people to cover every road of the country with leather. Definitely this would need the skins of thousands of animals, and would cost a huge amount of money. Then one of his wise advisors dared to question the king, “Why do you have to spend that unnecessary amount of money? Why don’t you just cut a little piece of leather to cover your feet?” The king was surprised, but later agreed to his suggestion to make a ‘shoe’ for himself. – We often say, “I wish things would change or people would change.” Instead wise people say: “Change your thinking and change your world.” (John Pichappilly in ‘The Table of the Word’)
- Today is the Day! Rabbi Eleazar told his followers: Repent one day before your death. Whereupon his followers asked: “How does one know which day it is?” “Exactly,” answered the sage, “for that reason we ought to live every day as though it were out last.” John the Baptist is calling all of us for repentance and that is today. (Fr. Sagayanthan)
In the FIRST READING, we see that almost 600 years before the coming of Christ, the city of Jerusalem was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, and people were carried off as exiles to Babylon. Baruch was one of the prophets who wrote to encourage the people not to give up hope. The day would come when God would bring his people home. This was the Word of God that had come into the mind and heart of the prophet Baruch.
In the SECOND READING, St. Paul writes to the Philippians – The Church says to us in Advent: My prayer is that your love increase more and more (love is always a gift of self); That you discern what is of value (what really makes a difference for us and for others in our relationship with God, and in light of our ultimate destiny and purpose of life); That you be blameless for the day of Christ (the intention to do what God wants of us); and, That you be filled with the righteousness that comes through Christ (a right relationship with God, a right relationship with yourself, and a right relationship with others). Such a preparation and readiness for the coming of Christ gives glory and praise to God!
In TODAY’S GOSPEL, St. Luke tells of this very same Word of God Who came again 600 years later to John the Baptist when Rome governed the land of Israel and Herod was a puppet king. John, the last of the great prophets before Jesus, preached a repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Both Baruch and John prepared the way of the Lord.
In ancient times, when a king was going to visit a city, he would send before him someone to herald his coming, someone to announce that he would be arriving soon. The herald would go around the city, and go before the leaders of the city, telling them all, “The king is coming. He will be here any day. So tidy up! Make sure you are all in obedience to the kings commands so that you will not be punished when he arrives.”
This herald also served as a city inspector. He would go around the city and make a list of things that needed to be fixed. He would tell them, “Clean up your city. Sweep your streets. Get rid of all the garbage lying around. Round up any criminals to make the city safe. Fix the roads; make them smooth and straight. Make sure the town is gleaming. Make sure the city is fit for a king to ride through.” It was an embarrassment for that city, and the people of the city, if they were not prepared when the king did arrive. It was also an insult to the king if they had not prepared properly for his arrival. If he came, and they were not prepared, he might mete out some judgment and punishment upon the city and its rulers.
As we look at Luke 3, this is what we see going on. The King is coming, and “He” has sent a herald to announce his imminent arrival. The king, of course, is Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Matthew brings this out very clearly, but we have also seen that Christ is King in the first two chapters of Luke. The angel told Mary in Luke 1:32 that her son would sit on the throne of his father David, and he would reign over Israel forever, and of his kingdom there would be no end. Zacharias’ prophecy about Christ in Luke 1:68-75 said much the same thing. When Jesus was born, the angels came and trumpeted his birth and gave him a kingly welcome.
John Prepares the Way: The herald of “the one who will pronounce his coming” is John the Baptist. John comes as a herald to make sure that the kings subjects are well prepared for the kings coming. John has come to prepare the way.
And John prepares the way by doing what a herald does: he proclaims a message. In other words, he preaches. That’s what preaching is, after all. It is a proclamation of God’s message. John the Baptist’s message is that the people need to repair their lives and prepare for Christ’s coming. He does this by calling the people to repent and be baptized in Luke 3:1-6. John Preached a Baptism of Repentance.
Luke, since he is a very accurate historian, provides a very detailed time frame for the events he is about to unfold. It is in Luke 3:1-2 where we see that God’s timing for this message was perfect.
1. God’s Timing Is Perfect (Luke 3:1-2a)
We know that these events happen somewhere between September of 27 A.D. and October of 28 A.D., in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, while Annas and Caiaphas were high priests. But aside from including these names to set the date for us, Luke includes them to show how far Israel had fallen. Politically, the Jews were ruled by foreigners, and religiously, Annas and Caiaphas had been illegally put into their positions by the Roman authorities, and constantly used their power to line their own pockets and increase their own authority. Annas was even sometimes called a viper who hissed or whispered in the ears of judges and politicians in order to influence their decisions. That becomes key when we look at Luke 3:7.
This list of names is a clear reference to the prophecy in Genesis 49 that the scepter had departed from Judah. The political and religious conditions of Israel were so fallen and corrupt, it was clearly time for the Messiah to be revealed. But before the Messiah is fully revealed, a prophet must rise and call the people back to God.
2. God has a Plan for John (Luke 3:2b)
At the end of Luke 3:2, with distinctly Old Testament terminology, we are introduced to the last of the Old Testament prophets. We read there that the Word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. John was born, remember, back in Luke 1, to his parents Zacharias and Elizabeth. And Zacharias was told by an angel of the Lord that his son, John, would be a prophet in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord (1:17). Thirty years later, this promise is about to come true. John is living in the wilderness, and the Word of the Lord comes to him.
3. You must repent of sin to prepare for the Messiah (Luke 3:3-6)
John the Baptist quotes Isaiah (40:3) to tell us that he has come to build a clear pathway for us; a way out of the wilderness of sin,; a pathway that leads to God. John is the herald for the Messiah. And what a herald would declare is exactly what John declares here for the Messiah. It is prophesied that he will tell them to make the paths straight and the rough ways smooth. To fill the valleys and bring every mountain low. This of course, would remind those in Luke’s day of the large scale preparations that went on to prepare a city and the surrounding region for the coming of a king. As indicated in these verses, sometimes they would even undergo major excavation of the surrounding countryside in order to make the roads as smooth and straight as possible. They didn’t even want the king to weary himself, or his horse, by having to ride up and down mountains, so they would sometimes fill them in to make them level and flat.
And that is what Luke records here as being fulfilled by John the Baptist. Notice this prophecy from Isaiah even mentions that the herald would come from the wilderness, just as was true of John. That he was in the region of the Jordan river also points to him being like the prophet Elijah who spent his last days in the Jordan river area (2 Kings 2:1-13). John was coming in the spirit and power of Elijah to herald the way for a king.
John was not coming to proclaim just any ordinary king. He was proclaiming the King of Kings. It says there in Luke 3:4 that this king will be LORD. This means he will be Pine, he will be God. He’s not just the son of another king — those are a dime a dozen. This King will be the Son of God himself! (The Internatinal Bible Commentary)
What is repentance? It is the Greek word “metanoia”, and literally means “a conversion” But it is nearly always used in reference to turning from sin, and so that is the best definition of repentance. Repentance is a complete turning away from sin, and turning back to God. You have been walking down the road in one direction in sin and rebellion, and you make a 180 degree turn and start walking the other direction toward God and obedience. There is no turning by degrees. You can’t say, “Well, I want to give up my alcoholism, but it’s so hard to give it up completely, so I’ll only have one drink a day instead of several.”
I know of one man who had a problem with pornography for years. He wanted to get out of it, but he just couldn’t. He realized that he was getting deeper and deeper into it over time, one small step at a time, going from softcore to harder and harder and harder, so he decided to try to back out in steps also. He continued to look at pornography, but only one step down from what he really wanted to look at. It never worked for him. He did finally get free, but only after a 180 degree turnaround, complete reversal, going cold turkey, not even watching dirty movies, and being very careful what department store catalogs he looked through.
But he did one other thing which made all the difference. You see, turning from sin is only half of repentance. This man also turned toward God. That is the key to true and lasting victory over sin. The time and energy that was spent chasing after sin, must now be spent chasing after God. This man, whenever he got the desire to go to a certain website, instead opened his Bible. Whenever he got the urge to buy a certain magazine, he instead went and spent that money on a Christian book, or gave that money to the church.
So you see, true repentance is not just a 180 degree turn from the sin, but an all out, full and frantic sprint back towards God. And of course, you won’t have to run all the way back. Remember the story of the Prodigal Son? When God the Father sees you far off down the road, on your way home, he will run out to meet you with outstretched arms to welcome you home.
Clean Out the Cobwebs in Your Life!
After an Examination of Conscience where you ask God to reveal any unforgiveness that you are holding, it is important to clean out the vestiges of cobwebs that may still be lurking in the dark corners of our heart. This means that you should make a point of getting to Confession during Advent. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is an important part of preparing your heart for Jesus; this is because the priest acts in the person of Christ in helping you identify the cobwebs that you may not be seeing on your own; typically those ones that have been hanging on for so long they no longer get your attention.
So do you want a release from a certain sin in your life? Repent. Turn from it, and fill the void with the things of God. The time you spent on this sin – spend in reading the Bible insted. The money you spent, give it away or spend it on God’s work. Fill in the potholes in your life with the heavenly cement of God’s Word. Give Christ a straight road in your life.
Do you want to be free from sin? The Bible calls you to repentance. This is what John preached. He preached the baptism of repentance. And we will learn more about this next week in Luke 3:7-14. But I want to encourage you, just as John was telling people to prepare for the coming of the king, you too must prepare for his second coming. He is coming again and he is coming soon. Are you ready? Are you prepared? Are your roads level or are they still bumpy? Are your streets clean or are they still filled with trash? Are you ready for your King?
If he had shown up at your door last night, what would he have found you doing? Would he have found your house in order? Would he have found your life cleaned up? Would he have found you prepared for his coming? The truth is that all of us still have preparations that need to be made. But, tet us continue to make preparations, because he could return at any moment. Repent from any habit of sin in your life. Turn from it and return to God. That is how you prepare the way for the Lord in your own life.
Right now, many of you are probably thinking of something you need to fix in your life, or something you need a release from. I know what I need to repent of in my own life. As I prepared this message this week, God deeply convicted me of a pattern of sin in my life that I need to turn from.
Do you have something you need to repent of? If so, resolve right now to turn from it, to make a full 180 degree turn away, and turn back towards God. Then the holes in your life will be repaired, and you will be prepared for the Lord’s coming.
AN ADVERTISEMENT FOR ADVENT READS:
An ELECTRICIAN, to ‘restore the current’ between people who don’t speak to each other…
An OPTICIAN, to ‘change the outlook’ of people…
An ARTIST, to ‘draw a smile’ on everyone’s face…
A CONSTRUCTION WORKER, to ‘build a bridge’ between angry people…
A GARDENER, to ‘cultivate positive & good thoughts’….
And last but not the least, A MATHS TEACHER, for all of us to re-learn
how to ‘count’ our blessings everyday…
A thought which is so true, but we always FORGET!
We love ourselves even after making so many mistakes…
Then how can we hate others for their small mistakes?
Stay Blessed… Stay Focused… Stay Renewed!!!
“Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make His paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled
And every mountain and hill brought low;
The crooked places shall be made straight
And the rough ways smooth;
And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (Isaiah 40:3)
Fr. Gaspar Fernandes, OFM Cap.