Pathway to God
In this beautiful homily for 2nd Sunday of Advent, Year C, Father Hanly talks about John the Baptist, metanoia and preparing a pathway to God.
Readings for Second Sunday of Advent, Year C
- First Reading: Baruch 5:1-9
- Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6
- Second Reading: Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11
- Gospel: Luke 3:1-6
Today is the second of the Four Sundays of Advent. Only two and a half weeks before the coming of Christmas. And today in the Gospel we hear the compelling voice of John the Baptist who comes to prepare the way of the Lord, the Messiah, the Christos, the Anointed One of God.
You all know John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus. John was born before Jesus and the two knew each other as children. However, we now skip ahead in history when the two cousins have grown up to be adults, and Jesus is about to reveal himself publicly as the Messiah.
John the Baptist rather early in his life left home. He joined one of the desert communities of men and women living on the edges of the Jordan river. They were fervent Jews, who dedicated themselves to prayer and fasting, while awaiting with great longing the coming of the Lord, God’s Messiah.
But John left the commune to enter deeper into the desert, entering into a more solitary and ascetic preparation for the mission for which he was destined, namely, to prepare the way of the Lord, for John was chosen by God to become the precursor of the long-awaited Messiah, Jesus the Christ.
Why did John go into the desert, you might ask?
Because the desert is a vast wilderness, in which only the strong of spirit can live and survive.
And it was the place where the prophets of God searched for solitude, a place where they could hone their lives, discipline their bodies and cultivate their minds, a place of without distractions where God Himself is the only voice to be clearly heard in the deepest part of the praying prophet’s heart.
It is in the desert where John hears the voice of God calling him to become the one who will announce the coming of the Lord, the Messiah, to the Children of Israel and to the whole world.
The Children of Israel have been praying for over two thousand years in the great hope that God would send the holy one promised by Moses, he who would finally make his people free, and create a whole new world.
And so it was that John the Baptist came out of the desert dressed in the garment of Elijah, the Prophet, wearing a rough coat made of camel’s hair, he ate only locusts and honey for food, and bringing with him a strong and simple message to the Children of Israel: “Make ready the coming of the Lord; open your hearts to receive him.”
And this was the way John the Baptist preached:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
Every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
John the Baptist was telling them to Hear and to Listen, for the time has come to turn their lives around, to return to God, who loves them, and is standing ready to greet them in their coming.
John came preaching a gospel of repentance. The Greek word for this is metanoia. But it means more than just falling on your knees, admitting your guilt, and being sorry for your sins. It means something more radical and basic: it means a change in the climate of your heart, and a turning of your life around.
When John the Baptist speaks of smoothing out the road, straightening the path, and when he adds “let every lofty mountain be made low, and every pothole filled and made level,” he’s talking about reforming our lives and repairing the cracks in our failures to love.
We must, then, attend to making the highway straight and the pathway smooth to welcome the Messiah and those he brings with him in his coming, for it is, indeed, our Lord and Saviour, the gift of God the Father, who comes to us on Christmas Day.
And if we follow the Baptist’s words and turn our lives around, and straighten out our crooked hearts, we’ll be laying a smooth and easy road for the Christ Child to enter in, into our hearts and into our homes on this our coming Christmas Day.