Prepare a Way

Scripture      Matt 3:1-12


In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea,

proclaiming, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke

when he said, ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness:

‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”



In Luke's gospel we are told of the origins of John the Baptist and his birth to relatively elderly parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth.  In today's Gospel, he is now a grown man.  He is seen living in the desert, "in the wilderness of Judea" near the Jordan River and not very far from Jerusalem.  He was wearing a garment made of camel-hair with a leather belt round his waist and he lived on locusts and wild honey.  Clearly he was a man of great austerity and constancy, not unlike the desert hermits in the Church of later times. The words of the prophet Isaiah are seen as fulfilled in him: "A voice cries in the wilderness:' Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight'.


In fact, John the Baptist’s message was: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."  In fact, this is exactly the same message that Jesus will proclaim at the beginning of his public life. The word for 'repent' here means much more than just being sorry for past misdeeds. The Greek verb metanoeite means have a radical change in one's thinking! It means seeing the world in a completely different way and embracing a whole new set of values. All of us will need to have this change of heart which the Reign of God demands. The “new way of the Lord” will manifest in our words and in our actions and in our interior attitudes. Linked with this call is the proclamation, "The kingdom of heaven is close at hand." The Kingdom of God primarily refers to that complex of relationships where people are in perfect harmony with God and with each other. Advent reminds us of ‘the always coming God' who is near at hand! Can you recognize God’s comings in your life today? 


John, in announcing the nearness of the Kingdom, is pointing to Jesus, who is the Divine incarnation of the Kingdom. In his human person he images perfectly his unseen Father and calls us to follow him in the same Way.  As he will say later, he is in fact The Way.  To live in him, through him and with him is to reach the ultimate goal of our existence - perfect union with God. All of this is included in this simpler proclamation of John, to be repeated later by Jesus himself. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”


How are we preparing the way…  A voice of one crying in the desert, prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. In ancient times kings sent word in advance to cities in their realm that they were coming for a visit. The people were expected to prepare for the event in various ways, including repairing the road (way, path) on which the king was to travel, so as to make his coming to visit more pleasant. Here the preparation is a symbol for moral straightness. John prepares the way of the Lord by his preaching and baptizing.

How am I being called to prepare a way for God’s coming in our day? Can I be open to welcome in a stranger this season? How do the poor ones experience my presence, my concern, my generosity? Will my heart be disposed to soften some righteous opinions and listen with respect to those who seek my love and guidance? As I move about the malls and grocery stores can I be mindful of the needs of my neighbours and offer them my patience, my kindness and share a smile or word of good cheer? 'The way’ is being prepared every time one of us acts in such a way that makes God more believable to be amongst us. ‘See how they love one another.'



John, is the forerunner, he announces the coming nearness of the One so powerful that John is not worthy even to carry his sandals, the task of a lowly slave.  This One will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.  The baptism of Jesus, which will be continued by his community of followers, will have the power to transform people's lives.  It will do this by the transforming power of being incorporated into the loving community which is the Body of Christ with the grace-filled and grace-filling elements such as the Scripture and the Sacraments.


Who is this Person whose sandals John is not fit to carry?  We have a marvelously poetic description of him in the passage from Isaiah, which is our First Reading for today. First we are told that he comes from the 'stock of Jesse'.  Jesse was the father of King David and Jesus, through Joseph, is in the line of David.  Like David he is a King but in a much greater sense.  David, one of the most attractive personalities in the whole of the Bible, was also a man of many weaknesses.  He was, among other things, guilty of both adultery and murder.  But he was also a man of great integrity and very close to God.   


The Person of whom Isaiah speaks is filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom and insight, counsel and power, knowledge and awe of the Lord.  We see these qualities shine out from the life of Jesus. He does not judge by appearances but judges with perfect integrity, with special sympathy for the poor, the weak and the lowly. He comes bringing an era of peace.  He represents the end of all conflict and violence. This appears even in the animal world where animals of prey live in perfect harmony with their victims - the panther with the young goat, the calf with the lion cub, and even the child is safe from the poisonous bite of cobra or viper. 

Where can we find such peace today? Hopefully, in our homes, families, parishes and communities, there is some healing and reconciliation happening. Old wounds and divisions are softening and the sounds of ‘comfort and joy’  are returning to our gatherings and celebrations. It is true that there are still serious divisions, and appalling violence rampant in our world.  And yet, where the Reign of God has truly taken root, people do live in great love and harmony even with their differences. These small communities witness to God’s great dream of universal oneness. We are certainly noticing that there is a much greater intolerance of violence in our world than in preceding generations. War as a solution to the grievances of nations and communities is becoming less and less acceptable. The Kingdom is coming. The new highway of world peace is being paved with good intentions, right actions for systemic justice and nonviolent communication. It is coming slowly but it is coming. It is for each one of us to play our part.


So now, as we prepare to celebrate the coming of God amongst us we can ask ourselves: What fruits can we show for our life in Christ?  Have we got the mind of Christ, of the Gospel?  Have we made that radical change of thinking, that metanoia that John and Jesus call for?  That change, above all, lies in the way we relate to each other in a loving and caring way. It calls for each one of us to contribute in a personal and unique way to making our families and our neighbourhoods better places for all to live in.  It demands of us a special care for those who need our help and kindness. Advent is a time for us to become aware of the needs around us. The Baby was born in the stable so that he might set in motion a spreading MOVEMENT of Truth, of Love, of Justice, of Sharing and Compassion, of Freedom and of Peace.  Christmas is a time for us once more to become fired with this vision and become part of it.

Carrying Grace        Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.




#1 arletteh 2010-12-07 02:00
To prepare for a new coming of God's ways,we are called, yet again, into the wilderness to hear the Spirit afresh.The withdrawal can be very radical,away from our regular way of life:in solitude,someti mes extended,depriv ed of the usual human companionship,a way from the abundance of food we know. The essence of one's life,ones's beliefs,one's dreams, is touched again, growing as a new shoot,from the stump and the roots of the former life deep within:from the human spirit,transfor med by the Spirit of Christ,transfor med by the Paschal Mystery.The shoot can grow now.It can move out,connecting with other new shoots.The peace that passes understanding flowers in one's spirit that was wilderness.The connections create Oneness.Now the needs of Lazarus lying at the door are not so easily ignored!

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