Second Sunday of Advent

Today’s Gospel draws our attention to Saint John the Baptist.  This focus on Our Lord’s Precursor fits perfectly into this holy season of Advent.  Saint John’s entire mission focused around preparing hearts for the coming of the Savior.  Advent is precisely a season in which we are to prepare our hearts.  Saint John was the messenger sent to prepare the way for the Lord: he was the voice crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths.  Saint John the Baptist called his hearers and he calls us to turn away from sin and to make of our hearts a fitting dwelling place for Christ.

When our God came down to dwell among us as a man almost two thousand years ago, He was not well received, by and large.  Scripture says that He came to His own and His own received Him not.  He was born in a stable and placed in the manger because there was no room for Him in the inn.  The only ones there to greet Him besides Mary and Joseph, were the animals and then later the shepherds and then the magi.

If we meditate upon that manger scene, it ought to make us just a little bit sad.  Yes, the birth of our Savior is a joyous event: it is one of the most important Feasts of the entire year: second only to Easter.  There will be great rejoicing when we celebrate Christmas in just a few short weeks; and yet at that first Christmas, when Our Lord was born, there were not many there to celebrate.  He came to His own and His own received Him not.  Christ’s first coming was humble, lowly, and quiet.  There was no room for Him in the inn.

It is scandalous, if we stop and think about it, that the Creator of the universe would not be welcomed by His own creatures.  It can be easy to find fault with those who failed to receive Christ at His first coming.  Yet we ought to remember that even now Christ stands and knocks at the door of our hearts.  Of course if we are in the state of grace God dwells within us, but Christ wants all of our heart not just part of it: He wants to possess our hearts entirely and completely.  He wants us to love Him above everything.  If we are honest with ourselves, we know that there is part of us that we have not yet surrendered to Christ.  If we are not saints, it is only because we have not given God all of our heart; if we are not saints, it is because we are holding part of our hearts back from the Lord.

God calls each and every one of us to be holy, His desire is that we all become saints.  If we are not saints it is only because we do not want to be.  God loves us completely, with all that He is, and He patiently waits for us; He calls us to respond to His love and give our hearts completely to Him.  God will not force us to give Him our hearts: we have to freely surrender them.  He wants us to let Him reign in our hearts: we have to allow Him into every part of our lives.  We must rid our hearts of all that is not pleasing to God: that is what Saint John the Baptist meant when he called us to make straight the paths and prepare the way for the Lord.

The person of Saint John the Baptist ought not only call to our minds the need to prepare our own hearts, but his example also ought to remind us of our duty to be witnesses to our Christian faith before others and by so doing help them to prepare their hearts.  Saint John the Baptist is a heroic witness and model for us.  He was fiercely devoted to his mission of bearing witness to Christ and yet at the same time he was very humble.  Saint John bore witness to the truth, even though it cost him his life.  He did not back down, even from the man that had power over his life and death.  Saint John was such a faithful witness that Christ declared him to be the greatest of those born of woman and yet Saint John saw himself as unfit to even untie the sandal strap of the Lord.  Saint John knew and lived his mission to bear witness and prepare hearts for Christ.

We have to ask ourselves: do we imitate the Baptist in our courage and in our loyalty to Christ?  Are we witnesses of Christ in the world?  Do our speech and our actions help others or do we hinder others from preparing their hearts by our example?  Let us strive to prepare our hearts for Christ.  Let us bear witness to Him in our words and in our deeds.  May we do all that we can during this Advent season to prepare the way of the Lord, and make straight His paths.  Saint John the Baptist: pray for us!  Amen.