from: The Benedictine Abbey of Christ in the Desert
FIRST READING Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated; indeed, she has received from the hand of the Lord double for all her sins. A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low; the rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken. Go up on to a high mountain, Zion, herald of glad tidings; cry out at the top of your voice, Jerusalem, herald of good news! Fear not to cry out and say to the cities of Judah: Here is your God! Here comes with power the Lord God, who rules by his strong arm; here is his reward with him, his recompense before him. Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care.
SECOND READING 2 Peter 3:8-14
Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out. Since everything is to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be, conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved in flames and the elements melted by fire. But according to his promise we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you await these things, be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.
GOSPEL Mark 1:1-8
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins. John was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He fed on locusts and wild honey. And this is what he proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Advent pulls our hearts to the Lord! Advent is a time to begin anew. Advent is a time to be still and listen again to the Word of the Lord. All of this is to say that we must prepare the way of the Lord in our lives and in our hearts.
The first reading today is from the Prophet Isaiah. We have to understand this word as originally aimed at the Jewish people who had been taken out of their own land and were living in a foreign land without must capacity to celebrate their own faith. These people longed to return to their own land and to rebuild the temple of the Lord. As in any community, we can be sure that not everyone wanted to return because they knew that returning would be even worse hardship than staying where they were.
This is a parallel to our own lives today. We are in exile from the Lord because of our sins and the sins of our ancestors. Not everyone today wants to turn to the Lord because the Lord makes demands on our lives. The words of the Prophet Isaiah can be addressed to us if we long to live according to the Word of the Lord and recognize that we cannot do that without the grace and mercy of God in our lives.
If we have tried to be faithful and find ourselves failing over and over, then surely the words of Isaiah speak to us! Comfort, give comfort to my people! Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low; the rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed.
When we are using our energies to seek the Lord, these words of Isaiah can bring tears to our eyes and open our hearts so much more to the presence of the Living God, who is seeking us.
The Second Letter of Saint Peter, from which is taken the second reading today, repeats this lesson to us: “The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” It is God Himself who wants to give us comfort but can only do so insofar as our hearts are open and waiting for Him. It is God who invites us to be patient and who reminds us: “Beloved, since you await these things, be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.”
Advent is a time to stir up our desire for God, to stir up our hope in the Lord, to deepen our awareness of His love for us.
The Gospel of Mark today gives us the account of John the Baptist, a man seeking the Lord with all his strength. Mark recognizes that John the Baptist is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy that speaks of the one who will go before the Lord to prepare His way. John himself speaks this way in the today’s passage. And John is so completely humbled by his task that he sees himself even unworthy to untie the thongs of the sandals of the Lord who comes.
Everything in and about John the Baptist points to the One Who Is To Come, the Savior, the Messiah.
May our lives become so focused on God and His ways in our lives that we become like John the Baptist: our lives only giving witness to the love and mercy of God and drawing others to that love and mercy.
Your brother in the Lord,