Baruch 5:1-9, Philippians 1:4-6,8-11, Luke 3:1-6
We welcome you to the second Sunday of advent. As the Christmas season approaches, the church provides us with insights into what is expected of us during the season of advent.
As we said in last Sunday’s reflections, Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of Jesus in history, mystery and majesty.
It is a season we prepare for Christmas, to receive Jesus into our hearts. Therefore, the centre of today’s readings is how we can prepare for the coming of Jesus.
In today’s gospel, Luke points out how the word of God came to John the Baptist in the wilderness. He went through the whole Jordan district proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, to confirm the prophecy of the prophet Isaiah when he says :
A voice cries in the wilderness:
Prepare a way for the Lord,
make his paths straight.
This forms our theme for this Sunday’s Reflections as it summarises the message of today’s liturgical celebration.
What It means to Prepare.
To prepare for something means to get ready for it. It entails getting things in order so that something will happen successfully.
When someone prepares for something, it means there is something ahead awaiting Him, hence, He prepares for it, so that it will be successful.
Therefore, to prepare the way for the Lord means to get ourselves ready to receive Jesus. We prepare for something only when that thing is truly very important and serious that we do not want it to fail.
For example, if I have exams and decide to fail, I do not need to prepare then, but if the forthcoming examination is very important to me, then I will surely take time to prepare for it so that I will be among the best.
Therefore, to prepare means that what we are preparing for is very important for us. If the coming of Jesus is very serious to us, if we are truly eager to encounter Jesus differently, in a spiritual encounter, we have to prepare and take this time of advent very serious.
To prepare the way for the Lord does not mean that there is a physical road Jesus would come. The way has been a popular word used by early Christians of that time.
Therefore, the way of the Lord is not worldly. To prepare the way for the Lord is a call to be a true disciple of Jesus wherever we are. It is a call to holiness, a call to repentance, a call to love and a call to bring peace wherever we are.
In essence, the way of Jesus is the way of righteousness, the way of peace, love, forgiveness, prayer, peace and good works.
To truly feel the aura of this Christmas, we have to decide to embrace these, especially if they are lacking. Then we will truly feel the impact of the celebration.
In essence, the coming of Jesus should lead us to change. It should lead us to repentance. The coming of Jesus goes beyond the mere decorations, the singing of Christmas hymns, there is more to it. It is more of total and internal renewal.
The Way for The Lord is Not of the World.
At the beginning of today’s gospel, Luke listed the political figures that were at the helm of affairs when John the Baptist was preaching the message of change, forgiveness and repentance.
Luke explains exactly, that this happened in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar’s reign.
It was the time when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judaea, and Herod tetrarch of Galilee, then his brother Philip was the tetrarch of the lands of Ituraea and Trachonitis, Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene. Luke also mentions that this happened during the pontificate of Annas and Caiaphas.
After Caesar Augustus defeated his rival, Antony, in a military battle at Actium. In 29 B.C. The Roman senate declared Octavius (Caesar Augustus) Rome’s first emperor. He was later honoured with the title “Augustus” (exalted one) which is a term signifying religious veneration.
Augustus Caesar was given supreme military power. He reigned over the Roman Empire from 27 BC until his death at age 76 in AD 14 and then succeeded by Tiberius Caesar who was his adopted son (Lk 2:1) and he reigned from A.D. 14-37.
Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, John begins the message of change, repentance and forgiveness of sins.
1. The point here is that these people are historical figures, listing these political and religious figures in history is a way to emphasize the historical character of the coming of Jesus. It emphasizes that the coming of Jesus is not a fairy tale. He was one part of history.
2. Secondly, These people mentioned here played active roles during the death and suffering of Jesus. Their roles show exactly that they do not truly understand who Jesus is. Therefore, these figures represent a time when the people do not know about Jesus.
They are not the disciples of Jesus, therefore, they represent the world. Therefore the way of the Lord stands in sharp contrast to the way of the world.
Luke mentions these political figures, then, gradually inserts that at that time of their reign, the word of God came.
3. Therefore, the word of God came as a spiritual reform. Hence, it came to transform the world to that of God. It would no longer be a time of political tussle, a time of political supremacy but a time when Jesus reigns supreme in our lives.
John begins a wave of spiritual revolution turning people to God and bringing people to repentance. Therefore, the time of advent is a time of change, a time of spiritual reform, a time God will reign supreme in our lives. This is a time to turn from being worldly to being Godly.
In essence, the way of the Lord is different from that of the world and antithetical to the ways of worldly power exemplified by Tiberius, Herod, Pilate, Caiaphas etc. As the world glorifies sin, reigns with hatred, and power tussles, the way of the Lord is a way of repentance, peace, love and forgiveness of sins.
How Do We Prepare the Way of the Lord.
As the season of Christmas draws near, and as we prepare for the second coming of Jesus, we can now ask ourselves “how we can prepare the way of the Lord. We can glean these from all the readings of today. They are:
1. Say No to Former Life.
The first reading provides a moment of consolation and hope for the people given to them in times of suffering and afflictions.
In the reading, God tells Jerusalem, take off your dress of sorrow and distress, put on the beauty of the glory of God forever.
In chapter four, Jerusalem was presented as a mother that is mourning for her exiled children.
God says that He has seen the captivity of His people. He says “For I nourished them with joy: but I sent them away with weeping and mourning (Bar 4:9-11).
Then in today’s reading, there was a change of tone. God now asks Jerusalem to put on the beauty of the glory of God forever. Therefore, it is no longer a time of sorrow, a time of mourning and worry. It is now a time of joy, a time of repentance, a time of change.
The past is gone, then the future is here. Therefore, the time of advent is not a time to worry about your past, what you did well and what you didn’t do well.
It is a time of joyful expectation, a time of hope, change and revival. To prepare for the lord we have to say no to our former life.
It is time to change. As the first reading says, it is a time to encounter divine light, to encounter forgiveness and mercy. It is not a time to continue to mourn over our sinful pasts. Now is the time for a change.
2. To Level the Valleys.
In the gospel, Luke quotes Isaiah who says “Prepare a way for the Lord,
make his paths straight. Every valley will be filled in, every mountain and hill be laid low, winding ways will be straightened and rough roads made smooth. And all mankind shall see the salvation of God. It is time to close every valley.
Valleys in the bible sometimes represent times of ups and downs. This is why David says “even if I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I fear no evil (Psalm 23:4).
Therefore, they represent all those things that stand in between our relationship with God. That thing that always draws you away from God must be removed at this time of advent.
Therefore, to prepare the way for the lord, we shall level all the valleys. The valley of hatred, weakness, tiredness, immorality, and idolatry must be crushed totally.
We shall level all the mountains that stand as stumbling blocks to our spiritual life. This is the time to make peace.
3. In the gospel, John was in the wilderness, preaching repentance and forgiveness of sins. Therefore, this is a time to hear the word of God and repent from all our sins. To prepare the way of the Lord, we have to repent.
In the second reading, Paul asks the Philippians that His prayer for them is that they become pure and blameless to prepare for the Day of Christ.
Therefore, to prepare for the Lord, we have to live a pure, holy and blameless life. We need to live a life that gives God glory and not a life that gives the world glory.
1. First of all, the question we have to ask ourselves today is “are we truly preparing? How are we preparing?
The whole emphasis of today’s readings is that as we take care of the body, as we plan on the houses to dedicate, the food to eat, the places to visit etc, let us not forget that our souls also need attention.
Let us not abandon our souls. As we beautify our bodies and houses, let us also beautify the soul. To prepare the way of the Lord is by giving the soul ultimate attention.
2. In the second reading, Paul thanks the Philippians for their love and how they have been spreading the good news until the present. Then He prays that God who began this good work will bring it to fulfilment.
In essence, the time of advent is a time we have to bring the good news to the people. This good news goes beyond mere preaching of the bible.
In Luke 4:18, Jesus says that His coming is to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, and that the oppressed will be set free.
In the second reading, Paul was praising their good works. Therefore, the good news that God desires the most this time is to bring joy to those who are suffering, the sorrowful, the afflicted, the downtrodden.
They include those people living around you, they include the people we have been intimidating because of our position.
They are those men and women, we have been taking advantage of his/her precarious and poor situation. This is the time to touch lives and not a time to destroy them.
3. This is also the time we have to come back to God and seek forgiveness of our sins. John was preaching in the wilderness and many people heard his voice and came for baptism.
Therefore, as we hear the word, what would be our response to it today? Do we say yes or no?
4. Also like John, let us be that lone voice in the wilderness. Let us be that voice that preaches peace in the family when every person has decided to live in enmity.
Also, let us be that voice that preaches repentance when every person has decided to follow the world. Let us be that lone voice that preaches change. Therefore, let us be different. We must not follow the crowd.
5. To prepare the way for the Lord is to make straight the winding roads of our moral uncertainties and inconsistencies, to fill up the ravines of our past lives and shortcomings.
To prepare the way of the Lord, let us level down the valleys of pride, lack of seriousness to the things of God, and spiritual laxity. Like Saint Paul says, let us increase our love, good works, and salvation of souls.
6. Therefore, in this season of advent, we need to prepare the way for the lord through a thorough personal improvement.
Therefore, let us always dispose of our hearts to welcome and accept the word of God.
Let us eschew hatred, jealousy, envy, quarrelling etc and may we increase the love we have for God more and more. Let us forgive and seek forgiveness also. This is the time to seek God wholeheartedly.
May God give us the grace to prepare a thorough way for Him. May He replenish you with abundant graces. Amen