Second Sunday of Advent (C)

“In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar. . . ”

These type of historical facts which the Gospels relate can seem rather boring to us at times, but they in fact show us that Our Lord and Savior came to us in a real historical context.  The fact that Our God became a man and dwelt among us is not a fairy tale set in a land far, far away in a time long ago.  Jesus Christ, Who is both fully God and fully man, dwelt among us in a very particular place at a very specific point in history: during the reign of a particular emperor, while a particular person was the high priest in Jerusalem.

The ruler of the entire empire is mentioned first, in this historical setting given to us by Saint Luke, and then the rulers of the Jews in Judea and in Galilee are mentioned, as well as others, and finally the high priests in Jerusalem are named.  The reason that the ruler of the entire empire was named was to show that the message of Jesus Christ was not just for the Jewish people; the message of Jesus Christ was to go out to all the earth.  Both rulers and high priests are mentioned because Jesus Christ is King of kings and He is also the High Priest.  Jesus offered Himself upon the Cross: He was both Priest and Victim.  His Sacrifice is the definitive Sacrifice that won redemption for the entire human race.  No new sacrifices are required; the Sacrifice of the Mass is not a new Sacrifice at each Mass, it is the one Sacrifice that Jesus Christ offered on Calvary.  The Sacrifice that Jesus Christ made of Himself upon the Cross is re-presented, in an un-bloody manner, of course, but the Sacrifice of Calvary is truly made present and is really offered to the Father upon our altar at every Mass.

After setting the historical context, the Gospel goes on to introduce Saint John the Baptist.  The Gospel implies that He is a Prophet when it says that the word of God came to him.  This is the same wording that many of the Old Testament Prophets used when describing their own call to announce the message they received from God.  Saint John the Baptist is not just another Prophet: he is the final Prophet.  All the Prophets of the Old Testament foretold the coming of the Savior.  Saint John didn’t just predict the coming of the Savior, He pointed to Him and announced His arrival.

The message of Saint John the Baptist is that we are to prepare the way of the Lord; that is why the Church gives us this Gospel during Advent.  Advent is a time for us to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Lord.  How do we make straight the paths?  By our faithfulness, keeping our eyes fixed on the Lord and not wandering or wavering between seeking God and seeking other things.  If we seek God first, Jesus assures us, all other things will be given to us as well.

Saint John also tells us that we need to bring mountains low and fill in the valleys.  The mountains represent our pride which must be brought low, for pride is an obstacle to closer union with God.  Valleys are the times when we fall, through sin and they need to be filled in with virtue.  It is by rooting sin out of our lives that we prepare our hearts to be a fit dwelling place for our God.

Saint Theresa of Avila taught that our soul is like a castle where God reigns.  Sin, she said, is like dust or dirt.  We need to clean the sin out, so that our Lord will have a more pleasing dwelling place within us.  When we root sin out of our lives, we clean the castle of our souls; when we practice virtue, we polish it and make it really shine.

Many of us will have visitors to our homes during this Christmas Season.  When we know we have family or friends coming over what do we do?  We spend extra time cleaning the house so that it looks nice when they arrive.  We want everything to look just perfect.  Do we spend the same amount of effort in preparing our souls for Our Lord?

Let us use this Advent season to make our rough ways smooth, that we may have hearts that are prepared to see the salvation of our God, which we will celebrate at Christmas.  May God bless you!