2nd Sunday of Advent
I remember my seminary professor in homiletics telling us, “What you will learn from this class is how to give good homilies and hopefully how to be a good homilist or preacher.” “But when you become a priest you are supposed to give to the people of God, not homilies, but God’s message.” “You can go to seminary and learn how to preach sermons, but you will have to go and talk to God to get messages.” “So, strive to become, not just a good homilist or preacher, but a faithful messenger of God.”
Today’s gospel reading starts with this announcement: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ (the Son of God).” Then it immediately speaks of God’s messenger, John the Baptist. Thus, the gospel is telling us: The Good News needs messengers!
John the Baptist was God’s messenger – pointing out to people “He who is to come.” He was sent “to prepare the way of the Lord.” Now that Christ has come, has died and risen from the dead, he still needs messengers to bring to others “the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.”
Like John the Baptist, we are sent “to prepare the way of the Lord.” God wants to come to the lives of people; but people are often not prepared to receive him. Hence, we must, by the way we live and by the way we preach, prepare them to receive him who comes to save us all.
To prepare the way of the Lord, we must make straight his paths. As Isaiah in today’s first reading is telling us: “Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low.” Advent is a great time for us to clear the ground, to make level the path, so as to facilitate what God, with all his heart, wants to do.
The way of the Lord to the human heart is marred by crooked ways – there is so much crookedness in ourselves and in our society. Think of the crookedness of those who separate faith from life – people who profess to believe in God but live as though God did not exist. Think of the priority or premium given in our society to appearances and images over substance and character. Think of the distorted sense of values that we have imbibed in ourselves as manifested in our worldly affairs and materialistic attitudes. Think of our extreme family-centeredness (pamilya ko muna, bago ang Bayan) that has caused the neglect of the common good. Think of the greed of the rich and powerful that has robbed the poor of their dignity and rights.
Again, like John the Baptist, we are “to prepare the way of the Lord.” We must, by the way we live and by the way we preach, prepare them to receive him who comes to save us all.
We must prepare the way of the Lord to our family weakened by coldness and apathy, by squabble and bickering, by envy and jealousy, by bitterness and unforgiveness. How? By always initiating meaningful dialogue and by being more patient and forgiving.
We must prepare the way of the Lord to our children bombarded by the distorted values of materialism, distracted by gadgets and social media, and lacking any sense of sacrifice and self-renunciation. How? By being role models to our children – living out the gospel values and becoming more prayerful.
We must prepare the way of the Lord to our sisters and brothers hungry for the Word of God and thirsty for God’s presence, or so caught up with worldly things and engrossed in self-indulgence, How? By bringing Jesus to them, and helping them to fall in love with Jesus.
We must prepare the way of the Lord to our nation deeply divided and desperate for real change, threatened by trolls, bashers, bullies and fake news, darkened by extra-judicial killings and character assassination, and tyrannized by someone fomenting antagonism towards the Church. How? By promoting the kingdom of God and its values, working for peace that is based on social justice.
Each of us was also chosen and given life for a reason. Whatever may have been the circumstances of our conception, God called each of us into being for a purpose. Cardinal John Henry Newman wrote a reflection on this very point. Let me quote some parts of it: God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission… He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work. Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about.
Like John the Baptist, we are God’s messengers… and our life, our way of life, is our message. Is it worthy of God?