Prepare the way
Ever seen the movie “The Princess Bride?” There’s a scene where Wesley is scaling the cliff and Inigo is waiting at the top to duel him. Inigo is becoming impatient with how long it is taking Wesley to climb the cliff, so Inigo offers to throw him a rope. There is some dialogue about a lack of trust “since I am only waiting around to kill you.” Wesley tells Inigo he’ll just have to wait. Inigo says, “I hate waiting.”
I do too.
I hate waiting. If we’re honest, we all hate waiting. Especially here in America. We are some of, if not the most, impatient people in the world. We live in an instant society. It really hasn’t helped us, I feel, as human beings that our lives are so instantaneous.
And this has really negatively impacted us in the Church also, I feel. Advent, aside from being the beginning of the liturgical year, has traditionally been a season of waiting and anticipation. We are waiting to celebrate the birth of the Messiah, the God-man, Jesus of Nazareth. But we are also anticipating His return.
When He ascended into heaven, Jesus promised His apostles (and us) that He would one day return. And so, we wait. We anticipate His return.
And we’re really terrible at waiting. I feel like it’s because we don’t really know what to do while we wait. We don’t know how to prepare while we wait.
Fortunately, the Holy Scriptures help us out in this area, as we find in our readings this week. For those who don’t know, I am using the new lectionary put out by the UCCB. It’s the one in most common usage in today’s Catholic Church.
The second week of Advent traditionally focuses on St. John the Forerunner or, if you’re more comfortable with another title, St. John the Baptist. Not because he was Baptist but I digress…
Our readings this week are:
Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
Psalm 85 (or 84 if you’re using the Douay-Rheims):9-14
2 Peter 3:8-14
I invite you to read those now if you have not already done so. As we consider our texts this week and the mission of St. John the Forerunner and what Advent is all about, I want us to consider this idea of preparation. There are four specific things I want us to consider as it relates to preparing for the return of the Christ. I want us to consider and see from our texts the promise of preparation, the peace of preparation, the discipline of preparation and the humility of preparation. My old Protestant pastor is comin’ out in me a bit with the alliteration there but oh well.
The Promise of Preparation (Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11)
We see the words of the LORD through the prophet Isaiah to the people of God. He tells His people to “be comforted.” And how are they to be comforted? They are comforted because evil has come to an end, their iniquity is forgiven, crooked ways shall become straight and rough ways plain. In verse 5 we have the wonderful promise that “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh together shall see, that the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” He goes on to promise in verse 10,
“Behold the Lord God shall come with strength, and his arm shall rule: Behold his reward is with him and his work is before him.”
And the glorious promise of verse 11,
“He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather together the lambs with his arm, and shall take them up in his bosom, and he himself shall carry them that are with young.”
The promise of preparation is the presence of the Shepherd.
The Peace of Preparation (Psalm 85:9-14)
The word “peace” is used twice specifically in this text, but we also see some strong imagery of peace and things being “made right.” Look at verse 9. God “will speak peace unto his people: And unto his saints: and unto them that are converted to the heart.” Verse 11 we are told that “justice and peace have kissed.” Verses 12-13 we see the images of peace and prosperity when the Psalmist tells us,
“For the Lord will give goodness: and our earth shall yield her fruit. Justice shall walk before him: and shall set his steps in the way.”
Goodness and the full yield of the earth’s fruits; justice and stability shall reign.
The peace of preparation is found in the rich fullness of the justice of God.
The Discipline of Preparation (2 Peter 3:8-14)
Discipline is not a popular word for most of us. But one thing we can see from Holy Scripture is that the Christian life involves some things that are probably going to be uncomfortable for us. If we are in Christ, if we are His disciples, there are things we must do. St. Peter reminds us of some of these things, these disciplines in this text.
Verse 9, he talks about God dealing patiently with us, “not willing that any should perish, but that all should return to penance.” (Douay-Rheims)
Verse 11, he asks, “what manner of people ought you to be in holy conversation and godliness?”
Verse 14, the Apostle reminds us,
“Wherefore, dearly beloved, waiting for these things, be diligent that you may be found before him unspotted and blameless in peace.”
The discipline of preparation is found in the penitent holiness of the diligent and unspotted people of God.
The Humility of Preparation (Mark 1:1-8)
Now we come to St. John the Forerunner. We see how he is directly linked to the prophecy of Isaiah in verse 3,
“A voice of one crying in the desert: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”
Aside from what St. John did to accomplish this, we are tasked with the same duties. We have work to do. We don’t get to just lay down and coast while we wait. No, we have work to do to prepare for Christ’s return. We too must proclaim St. John’s message: Prepare ye the way of the Lord and make straight his paths!
We see St. John’s humility in how he was clothed and his austere food choices. We see his humility in testimony when St. Mark tells us,
“And he preached saying: There cometh after me one mightier than I, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and loose.”
St. John was a big deal. People were coming to him in droves, confessing their sins and being baptized. In today’s world, he would probably have a popular podcast, maybe a YouTube channel and would have published some books probably. He was a big deal. But he turns the attention to the One who is coming.
The humility of preparation is found in our recognition that we are not the big deal.
All of these things find their culmination in one thing.
In One Person actually.
The promise of preparation is found in the comfort of the coming of our Lord Jesus. In Him, the glory of the Lord is revealed, and all flesh will see Him as He is when He returns!
The peace of preparation is found in the coming of our Lord Jesus. In Him is the fullness of the goodness and justice of a holy God who has come to us and who promises to return!
The discipline of preparation is found in the coming of our Lord Jesus. In Him, we find the patience of God who is not willing that any should perish but that all should have everlasting life in holiness and godliness!
The humility of preparation is found in the coming of our Lord Jesus. In Him, we see the fullness of humility,
“who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. For which cause God also hath exalted him, and hath given him a name which is above all names: That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth: And that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:6-11, DR)
This is the One for whom we wait!
This is the One who comes!
Prepare the way!
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