5TH DECEMBER 2021
GOD GUIDES OUR STEPS
Baruch 5: 1‐9; Ps 126: 1‐2, 2‐3, 4‐5; Phil 1: 4‐6, Luke 3: 1‐6
Baruch, the secretary to the prophet Jeremiah, addresses the few faithful Jews who were left in Jerusalem during the exile. He tells them that it is time to cease being downcast and sad, for God will lead the exiles back to the Holy City in the very near future. The way back will be smooth and blessed as opposed to the tragic way the captives were taken away. With the return of those held in bondage, a new time of peace and justice and joy will come, all made possible because God is returning with the exiles, in fact, God will be leading them back.
The key character in today’s Gospel is John the Baptist. St. Luke gives historical credence to John by describing the civil and religious authorities at the time of John the Baptist. John is seen as a prophet, called by God to announce the message of the coming of the Messiah. His message comes with a call to repentance and a sign of wanting to have one’s sins forgiven, so that they would be ready for the arrival of the Messiah.
The anticipated coming of the Lord Jesus should be a time of joy, mixed with a sense of repentance and a desire to live a reformed life. This is true for us who wait for Jesus’ final return. For us who seek to be faithful (full of faith), it should be time of joyful expectation. It is also to be a time when we look and see if we have anything in our lives which needs to be straightened out.
The imagery of a road being prepared is used both by Baruch in the First Reading and Luke in the Gospel as John the Baptist quotes verses from Isaiah 40: 3‐5. The picture portrayed in the readings is that the winding, hilly roads would be widened and straightened so that those who travelled the way would be able to travel easily and quickly. There is also the image that instead of leaving as bound captives on foot, they would be brought back with God, being carried on thrones (or chariots with royal seats).
Looking at our own lives, I realize that much of our journeying has been on bumpy paths that have had great ups and downs as they twist around the obstacles in our life. We have twisted the perception of the road because we have not always wanted to go straight to the Lord Jesus or to be prepared for His coming in the most direct ways.
The challenge placed before us today and during this season of Advent is to see what we can do to straighten out the path on which our journey and the path on which we will meet the Lord Jesus when He comes to us. It takes a lot of work to fill in the low points and bring down some of the highs on which our life has been built. Yet it is only when we are willing to prepare a smooth and easy path for the Lord Jesus to come to us that we can experience the fullness of joys which God has in mind for us. And even when we work on making the way of the Lord Jesus as level and plane as we can, it does not mean that we will be free from some potholes which threaten to knock us off the path to the destination at which we want to arrive. We must look at the pitfalls that plague our path and see what we can do to fill them. It means we must be discerning and dedicated. We must repent of the wrong turns that we have taken and get back on the straight paths. It is only with God’s help that we can journey with a sense of equality, justice, and peace which we seek. Helping others journey to their destination has become an active part of our life both metaphorically and in reality
A few years ago, about this time of year, a relative was planning a trip with a friend. Since she was going to be traveling in the friend’s car which did not have a GPS and the relative didn’t want to take hers, she went to the computer to look up and print out the directions. The first site she accessed gave her directions which she did not believe to be accurate. So, she checked another site and received direction which were correct. It was good that she didn’t take the first set of directions. She took the extra step of checking out the directions and being sure she had the best path to her ultimate destination.
Similarly, we can sometimes be misled in our life’s journey. If we take the first set of information we come to, without checking to see if they are accurate, we can end up in the wrong place. We must be willing to take the extra steps needed to be sure we are following good directions, and not just the first ones we see. We must check the directions God intends for us and try to stay on task as we journey to our ultimate destination