Last week, we were reminded that Jesus is coming. This week, we are reminded to prepare for His return.
In the first reading, we read of ‘Jerusalem’ and how God calls her to “take off your robe of mourning and misery” and “put on the splendor of glory from God forever.” Jerusalem represents the people of God (2 Chronicles 6:6, Zechariah 1:16). In our case, the Church (Romans 12:5). We are called by God to remove all that holds us down and brings mourning and misery; namely, sin. Sin causes all kinds of problems (Romans 6:23, 1 John 3:4). Sin brings about fights which cause tension and discord (Isaiah 59:2, Romans 16:17). Sin brings about divorce which hurts love and children. Sin brings about fanaticism which brings about death and mourning via terrorism. Sin brings lust to relationships which brings misery and broken hearts. In a word, sin is bad. There is nothing good about it. We must remove it and replace it with “God’s splendor.” We have to “Put on a new self” (Colossians 3:10, Ephesians 4:24). God will secure us with His light of glory. His mercy and justice will accompany us as the reading tells us in the ending. We know what God is capable of. You reading this would not be here reading now if you were not a believer of God and became one because you saw God in your life. In response, we must be filled with joy at God’s marvels as the Psalm for today tells us.’
The Psalm today reminds us of joy in God after God has rescued us. Israel suffered greatly. Jerusalem was conquered. However, God did not abandon His people (Deuteronomy 31:6). He was always there and brought them back to the promised land. Joy immediately returned to the people. The people saw how God truly cared for them and did not let their enemies triumph (Isaiah 40:11, Psalm 41:11). We too, today, must recall how God has rescued us in our lives. How He restored our fortunes and wiped the tears from our eyes (Revelation 21:4). In response, we pray and grow in faith as the second reading tells us.
In the second reading, we are reminded that God begins the “good work” in us and will complete it in anticipation for the day of Christ Jesus (Matthew 13:1-23). This is Advent in a nutshell, so to speak. God began His work in us. We allow this work to take hold as we become more receptive to God via the Sacraments. Advent is a period of preparing and waiting. We must let love increase in us as the reading states and be able to discern every perception to see if it has value or not (1 Thessalonians 5:21). This will ensure us that we stand blameless before Christ on the day of Christ. This day of course refers to the last day when Christ returns to judge the living and the dead (2 Timothy 4:1). We must make use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation during this time as we prepare. We must heed the call of repentance as we read in the Gospel today.
The Gospel starts by telling us of what was going on prior to Christ’s birth. We are told of those who were the political and religious leaders of the time. This information is meant to give some historical perspective by telling us of the timeline. Next, we are told of John, the son of Zechariah who is in the desert and receives the word of God. Immediately, he goes about the region telling people to repent and be baptized. This fulfills the prophesy of Isaiah who wrote:
“A voice of one crying out in the desert:
“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.”
As stated before, Advent is a period of preparation. We must prepare the way of the Lord by making straight His paths. Jesus comes to our hearts so we must make sure they are clean and straight (Revelation 3:20). We must be blameless before Him when He returns. If during Advent and afterwards we are not going to confession, becoming more loving, kind and merciful, following the Church’s teachings more, then we are not preparing the way for the Lord (Colossians 3:2, 1 Corinthians 13:1-2). I use the Advent wreath to remind me about how to prepare and what to work on. This is my personal mediation:
Jesus told us in Luke 10:27 to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. To me, each candle on the Advent wreath represents each thing we must love God with.
- So I work on the first candle: love God with my mind.
- Then the second: love God with my heart.
- Then the third: love God with my soul.
- Finally the fourth: love God with my strength and go out with that fortified strength and preach the Gospel.
I do this as I prepare for the Lord’s coming, not only on Christmas but on the day of Christ as it is described in the second reading. The ‘circle’ of the wreath reminds me that I have to keep preparing all year long (Philippians 2:12). The wreath does not end at one point but continues in a circular fashion reminding me that my personal preparation must be ongoing and must never end (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Let us heed the call of John and repent. Let us ask God to continue and complete that good work in us. Let us set aside the garments of misery and mourning and ask God to put on us a new self that truly reflects His image (Genesis 1:27, Colossians 3:10, Ephesians 4:24). Today we celebrate St. Nicholas of Myra as well (see: http://www.sacerdotus.com/2011/12/santa-is-real.html). The man ‘Santa Claus’ derives from. He prepared for Christ well by being generous to others, especially the poor. His faith was so strong that he even physically (punched) knocked the living daylights of Arius who denied the divinity of Christ (Arianism). While I do not recommend physical violence against anyone, we should ‘knock out’ bad ideas from our lives as we prepare for Christ’s second coming. Come Lord Come!