“Prepare” is the great theme of Advent, as it is the essence of nearly everyone’s preoccupation at this time. The Advent preparation we are called to do is compared to a road. We hear in the gospel reading that the path is to be made straight, the valleys to be filled in, the hills laid low, uneven ground made level and the rough places a plain so that the journey of God toward us and ours toward God will be smooth and will not lose direction.
John the Baptist was the herald who prepared the way for the coming of the Messiah. He preached in the desert, a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The key element in John’s preaching was the preparation of a new people and a distinct community. John encouraged people to join a new society that would be able to withstand the coming judgments because of the purity of its observance of how the People of God should behave and live as a group.
The first step in preparation for welcoming the Messiah is to go into the desert in true repentance. The wilderness we are in, is contained in our hearts. It is not what is outside that defines our wilderness, rather it is what is inside, it is created by our actions and by our inactions. Facing our wilderness means abandoning our usual hiding places and putting ourselves in a situation where God can easily reach us. We can be lost and find refuge in the crowds, parties, in social media, drugs, or in dark hideaways, but the loneliness and disappointments will never go away unless we face the desert. After the Baptism Jesus was led by the spirit to be tempted in the desert. To go into the desert means to stare our inner chaos in the face. What demons live inside this chaos? The demon of grandiosity, loneliness, and unbridled sexuality, and the demons of paranoia, woundedness and joylessness.
When the real I, and you stand up to face the demons we shelter in our lives, we will realize the need to level the mountains, fill the valleys and straighten up the path. The mountains that build up by our pride, self-esteem, gossip, double life and the valleys of weaknesses, addictions, doubts, fears, feelings of meaninglessness, sloth, restlessness, sleeplessness, overindulgence in food and drinks, and crooked paths of broken relationships, anger, worries, fears, doubts and bad temper, selfishness and self-centeredness remain always a hindrance to the coming of the Lord. Overcome our loneliness face up the challenges courageously instead of seeking refuge in our hideaways.
As John the Baptist invites us, this advent season let us fill our hearts once again with the hope of encountering the messiah. Let us reach out to others in genuine love, to ease the suffering, hunger and poverty. We shall try to be other centered than self-centered and discover our total dependence on God. God’s grace and forgiveness awaits all of us to experience the marvels God can work in and through us.
“Make straight the way of the Lord, that is, acquire an even disposition by the mortification of your passions, inclinations and aversions. An even disposition is the most pleasing virtue in the spiritual life, one for which we must work continually.” St. Francis de Sales