We continue our Advent message series entitled What are you waiting for? Last week we looked at FOCUS. I hope that during the Thanksgiving preparations and festivities, regardless of how scaled back or full they may have been, that you were able to take some time and focus a bit more on your relationship with God. Sometimes it seems as if we have so many excuses about that spiritual project and we feel that we’ll get around to it … and we never do. But I’ve realized over the years that we need to just do it – take time, think, meditate and pray … everyday. Sometimes, everything else can and should wait! On Thanksgiving, I was able to focus and take some time in the afternoon for a good walk through our parish cemetery. I’m always inspired not only thinking about the lives of the people in the graves you’ve entrusted to us, but also by how many of you come and visit and decorate and pray at the graves and tombs of those you love. For many, the visits are to deceased parents, who were the first ones to pass on the Catholic faith – learning to love God and neighbor. For others, sadly it’s parents coming to visit the grave of a child – even some little ones whose parents never got to see them grow up and live their life. Both are signs to me of people who know the meaning of OBEY – children obeying parents and parents obeying the obligation to care for children, even in death. In the New International Version of the Bible, the word 'obey' is mentioned 223 times – so it begs the question, What is the Lord asking us to do, to OBEY in the Scriptures on this second Sunday of Advent? … and then …What are we waiting for? The word PREPARE appears five times in the readings this week. It seems to me then, that in obedience, we are asked to PREPARE … prepare our hearts, prepare our minds, prepare our homes for the coming of the Lord … not only at Christmas, but for our final meeting with him, the one that will take place face to face. And I can hear in the depths of my soul, kind of like a persistent parent, how many times do I have to tell you … prepare!? And while there is a bit of a penitential nature to the season, Advent is not a call to recognize our sin, but it is rather an invitation to change our lives. The hardest thing in the world is perhaps to change our lives. Some people shake at the mention of the word change. The Gospel introduces us to John the Baptist coming out of the desert, the last of the great prophets. It’s been over a hundred years since the people of Israel, the children of Israel, had seen and heard a prophet. And he is very recognizable, because he is dressed like Elijah the prophet, the clothes are Elijah the prophet, the words are the excitement of Elijah the prophet — the greatest prophet who never wrote a word but was the greatest and the first of the great prophets of Israel. And they all have the same message. The Lord has come. Prepare yourself for the coming of the Lord. Prepare yourself. Make straight His paths. What he means by that is … straighten yourselves out. We all know that in obedience to God’s will, there are many things about ourselves that we need to straighten out … even and especially when no one else is looking. We can sometimes be caught up with what everyone else sees and think that we forget the greatest reality … God sees everything. He knows us even from before we were in our mother’s womb ... and God challenges us to straighten out. Surely, there are many ways we can do so: · Being honest with yourself. · Being truthful to others. · Taking care of yourself. · Taking care of others. · Not pretending to be something that you’re not … and so much more! Advent gives us a time to make straight the path, so that the Lord can come and nestle into our hearts and make us transparent and open, make each of us no longer afraid to be who we really are, because in His eyes we are much richer than anything we could ever buy and much higher in His eyes than we could ever make of ourselves among each other. It is indeed God Himself who comes to walk down the straight paths and into our hearts. And to prepare, we are called to obey His Word, to prepare his Kingdom, and to focus on God’s presence here and now. I read recently that Albert Einstein, when he was told that the Declaration of Independence in America was “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” used to say the pursuit of happiness is for idiots. That’s kind of startling. But what he meant was this … They said, “Well, what should we pursue?” He said: You should pursue truth. You should pursue beauty. Not running around trying to be happy, happy, happy, buying things, doing things that will make you happy, happy, happy. Because they’re never going to make you happy.
On the other hand,
… if you pursue truth, if you pursue the things that are really what your own hearts hunger for — love, forgiveness, compassion — these are the truths that are worth laying your life down for. And that is what Jesus comes to give us – all of us, even despite our weaknesses and our sins. He comes not only to teach us, He comes to live it with us. Advent gives us the chance to FOCUS, to OBEY and to PREPARE. And this is what John the Baptist was saying when he challenges us to PREPARE. He is saying make straight the paths because God Himself is coming. And when he comes, he is going to take us into a world that we cannot dream of. But it will be a world very unlike the one we’re in now, living in fear, constant threats, all these things. And He will make and keep us safe. And He will make us whole. This Second Sunday of Advent we are called in obedience to PREPARE … to prepare ourselves for the new world, for the world of heaven … so, it’s already December 6, What are we waiting for? RSM