My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
As I was saying today, we especially pray for all those effect by the wildfires here in Southern California.
We pray also for the firefighters and the first responders that are helping the different communities during this challenging time.
We also have set up a special fund here in the Archdiocese through Catholic Charities of Los Angeles to support the communities that have been hit by the fires. You can visit the webpage of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to find out how you can help.
And we all, in this beautiful season of giving, we all should be generous to those who have lost everything or are in that challenging situation of being evacuated from their homes and in a difficult situation right now.
Let’s pray for them, especially asking the intercession of Mary Our Blessed Mother that the firefighters can control the fires and that the people can go back to their ordinary lives.
So, as we enter into the second week of our Advent journey, today in our Gospel passage, we meet the figure of St. John the Baptist.
And St. John the Baptist also comes with a message — but it is not his message. The Gospel tells us that he is just “a voice.”
So, in addition to the simplicity of his lifestyle, there is the humility of St. John the Baptist.
He is not the One. In everything, he is always pointing to Jesus. He tells us in today’s Gospel: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.”
St. John the Baptist comes to be “the voice” for Jesus. And the message he brings is a message of conversion, of repentance. We heard his words:
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
This is a beautiful message of comfort and hope. It’s also the message that we also heard in today’s first reading, from Isaiah the prophet.
Comfort, give comfort to my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her
that her service is at an end,
her guilt is expiated.
My dear brothers and sisters, we are God’s people and God wants to speak to our hearts. This is what Advent is all about. God wants us to know that he is coming in the person of Jesus Christ — the second person, as we know of the Blessed Trinity — to save us in his kindness and compassion.
God really wants to be close to us, to each one of us.
But sometimes, sadly, we put obstacles in the way. Through our sin and weakness, we create mountains and valleys in our lives — and we make it harder for God to reach us. And sometimes, we can even make the mistake and think that we are too broken or too far away, that God will never come and find us.
But it is not true! Not at all! That is why we hear this message of repentance today.
Repentance means returning, coming home. And if we are coming home — then that means there must be Somebody there who is waiting for us.
No matter what. Because God, as we know, is our loving Father. And he loves us as his own sons and daughters. He knows that we are weak but his love is stronger than our sins — even our biggest sins.
That is what the prophet Isaiah is telling us today: Jesus is coming and he will fill-in every valley. Jesus is coming and he will make every mountain low! He will smooth-out all the rough places in our lives.
But, my dear brothers and sisters, we need to work with him. Jesus is coming towards us. But we need to always be moving towards him.
And Advent — the season of Advent — is about preparing the way for that encounter. It must be a personal encounter with Our Lord Jesus Christ. And whatever we have to do, we need to make a straight path that enables us to open our hearts and accept God’s mercy and his compassion.
In the end, repentance, as we also know, requires conversion of the heart — it means examining our lives and recognizing our sins and our weakness.
It means changing those things in our life that need to be changed — our attitudes, our way of thinking that are not in accordance with the will of God. Whatever it is. Repentance means opening our heart to truly believe in God’s plan for our lives and to want to do his will.
This is exactly what St. John the Baptist is telling us today:
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
Jesus is the straight path. He is the way.
And if we walk in his way, if we live according to his teaching and his example — then Jesus will lead us home to our Father.
So today, let us especially ask for the grace to increase our faith in our Father’s love.
Then, St. Peter tells us in today’s second reading of today’s Mass:
The Lord … is patient with you,
not wishing that any should perish
but that all should come to repentance.
Again, the beautiful promise of our Father’s patience and his loving call to repentance.
Let us turn to Jesus today — with a humble heart; a heart that is sorry for our sins.
That’s the best way to prepare for Christmas, for that personal encounter with Jesus Christ — to allow Jesus to enter in our hearts, in our souls.
Well then, naturally, we need to show others the love and mercy that we find in Jesus.
Jesus wants us to go outside ourselves and proclaim the good news of his mercy and love. There are so many people out there who know nothing about God’s love and mercy. And this is what it means to follow the way of the Lord. This is what it means to make Jesus the straight path for our lives.
Going out and sharing the beautiful news of what Christmas is all about to some many people out there.
Like St. John the Baptist, we need to announce Jesus Christ. We are supposed to be, also, the voice of Jesus Christ — by the way we live. Not just talking but obviously, showing people that we are trying to be faithful to the message of the Our Lord Jesus Christ and that we are following him.
We need to share God’s mercy and tenderness. We need to be messengers of hope to the people in our lives.
One of the saints said: “Many great things depend — don’t forget it — on whether you and I live our lives as God wants.”2
So many things depend on that — for our own personal lives, our families, and the people around us. The whole world for that matter.
So my dear brother and sister, this week, let us try to live our lives as God wants, with this spirit of repentance, with this spirit of sharing God’s mercy with everyone in our lives and everyone we meet.
It is a special time, Bishop Zaidan the Bishop of the Maronite Eparchy of the Western United States was telling me the other day that for the Maronites, Advent is a season of joy in the preparation of Jesus’ coming.
So let us live in that way, with the joy of knowing Jesus is coming and that we are called to be, as St. John the Baptist was, the voice of Jesus in our world.
Let us entrust them ourselves to the maternal intercession of Mary, our Blessed Mother — who made herself the “way” for God to enter into our world.
1. Readings: Isa. 40:1-5, 9-11; Ps. 85:9-114; 2 Pet. 3:8-14; Mark 1:1-8.
2. The Way, 755.