Bar 5:1-9; Phil 1:4-6, 8-11; Lk 3:1-6
A soap manufacturer and a pastor were walking together down a street in a large city. The soap manufacturer casually said, “The gospel you preach hasn’t done much good, has it? Just observe. There is still a lot of wickedness in the world, and a lot of wicked people, too!” The pastor made no reply until they passed a dirty little child making mud pies in the gutter. Seizing the opportunity, the pastor said, “I see that soap hasn’t done much good in the world either; for there is much dirt still here, and many dirty people are still around.” The soap man said, “Oh, well, soap only works when it is applied.” And the pastor said, “Exactly! So it is with the gospel.”
Dear Friends! Each year, the second and the third Sundays in Advent center on John the Baptist, reminding us that if we want to prepare properly for the coming of Jesus we need to listen to the Baptizer’s message. The evangelists realized the importance of John’s message. Hence, all four of them wrote about John’s preaching, while only two of them described the nativity of Christ. Following the style of ancient historians, Luke dates the appearance of John according to the ruling powers. He begins by setting the emergence of John against a world background, the background of the Roman Empire. After referring to the world situation and the Palestinian political situation, he turns to the religious situation and reports John’s emergence as a herald of the Messiah during the religious leadership of Annas and Caiaphas.
John’s baptism was not a proselyte baptism, converting Gentiles into Jews. Instead, it was a baptism for the forgiveness of sins, and it required repentance, which implied a turning around to proceed in a new direction. The quotation John used is from Isaiah 40:3-5, where the prophet was calling the people to prepare for the Lord’s visitation. If a king were planning to travel, work crews would be dispatched to repair the roads. Ideally, the roads for the king’s journey would be straight, level, and smooth. John considered himself as the courier of the king. But the preparation on which he insisted was a preparation of heart and of life. “The king is coming,” he said in effect. “Mend, not your roads, but your lives.” The quotation, “making straight the paths of the Lord,” means clearing the path of sin, which is the major obstacle preventing the Lord from coming into our lives.
So today’s Gospel passage tells us that we need to prepare our hearts and lives for Jesus our savior to be reborn in us during this Christmas time. We have to fill in the “valleys” of our souls, formed from our shallow prayer life and a minimalist way of living our faith. We have to straighten out whatever crooked paths we’ve been walking, like involvement in some secret or habitual sins or in a sinful relationship. If we have been involved in some dishonest practices at work or at home, we are called to straighten them out and make restitution. If we have been harboring grudges or hatred, or failing to be reconciled with others, now is the time to clear away all the debris. As individuals, we might have to overcome deep-seated resentment, persistent fault-finding, unwillingness to forgive, dishonesty in our dealings with others, or a bullying attitude. And we all have to level the “mountains” of our pride and egocentrism by practicing true humility rendering humble service to others.
We need to repent and seek forgiveness from God and fellow-human beings: John’s message calls us to confront and confess our sins. We need to turn away from them in sincere repentance and receive God’s forgiveness. I request you to seek God’s forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation here in our church on Dec 14th at 7.00p.m. Or this Sunday at St. Bernard’s at 2.30p.m. May God Bless you as you continue to prepare for the great celebration of Christmas.
Just as the soap only works when it is applied, so also the Grace and blessing of God works only when it is applied in our daily life.