The Second Sunday of Advent (B)
The last of the prophets has come. The Lord God sent the prophets one by one throughout the history of Israel to direct their minds and hearts to the coming of the Messiah, to the Anointed One of God who would redeem his people. Thus, Isaiah proclaimed to the people just as he proclaims to us today these many years later:
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 (Isaiah 40:3-4).
The message is clear: our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Heaven and Earth, is coming, and we must be prepared to welcome him upon his arrival.
We know that his coming will be most unexpected and that we “do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning” (Mark 13:35). Therefore we must seek to always be “ready to greet him when he comes again,” as all good servants and friends are. Every parent stays awake, watches, and waits until their child returns in for the night. It should be no different with us, for our Lord commands us to “Watch!” (Mark 13:37).
The last of the prophets has come, the one of whom Isaiah foretold:
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” (Mark 1:2-3).
The last of the prophets is, of course, John the Baptist, for unlike the prophets who came before him, John saw and gave undeniable witness to him of whom he spoke. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the other prophets all told of the coming of the Messiah, but never did they see him. The prophets yearned for the coming of the Anointed One of Israel but their mission was not to point to him directly, but to prepare the hearts of the people for his coming. Of these prophets Jesus said to his Apostles,
Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it (Luke 10:23-24).
John the Baptist, the Forerunner of the Lord, is unlike the other prophets in this regard and because of this is also the greatest of the prophets. While Isaiah and the others told the people of the coming Messiah, John pointed to him physically. Him whom the other prophets longed to see and hear, John saw with his own eyes and heard with his own ears and pointed to with his own hand. The Messiah has come! Our King has come to us and walked among us!
The all-powerful God abandoned the glory of heaven to be born of the Virgin Mary. He lived our life, he walked our walk and talked our talk, he died our death, and rose again to the glory of Father, destroying forever the power of sin and death. We know that the Son of God will come again to raise our mortal bodies from the earth to enjoy with him forever the vision of eternal Beauty. He promised he would come to us in “a little while;” why, then, has he not yet returned in the course of these two thousand years? (John 16:16).
St. Peter addresses this very question for us today, a question that is just as real and important today as it was some two thousand years ago. The Prince of the Apostles reminds us,
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 (II Peter 3:8-9).
In his unfathomable wisdom and mercy, Christ the Lord has not yet returned in order to allow us more time to turn toward him, to confess our faults, to implore his forgiveness, and to know the immense power and peaceful gentleness of his love. Jesus has not yet returned so that we might more fully heed the words of the Baptist: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2).
Our first Pope encourages us to seek the tender mercy of the Lord pleading with us saying, “Therefore, beloved, since you await [new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells], be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him” (II Peter 3:14). We must, then, level the mountains of our pride and fill in the valleys of our greed with humility and trust. Let us make straight the wasteland of our self-centeredness; let us, through his grace, construct a highway of faith, hope, and love that he may find us eagerly awaiting his return, for
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” (II Peter 3:10).
After having prepared our souls to receive the Lord and to welcome him with cries of great joy and jubilation, let us then climb the high mountain and “cry out at the top of [our] voice” (Isaiah 40:9). Let us join in the mission of John the Baptist and point out to the world the Messiah, the one for whom every soul truly longs. Let us cry out to a world desperate for the Savior,
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 (Isaiah 40:9-11).
Like John the Baptist, we must give witness to the Messiah who is coming again.
Do not say, “I have time yet to prepare. I will get ready for the Lord after I do this or that.” No! The return of the King is near! We must be prepared, and the more we prepare ourselves the sooner he will come, for as Peter tells us,
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 (II Peter 3:11-12).
Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight his paths. Come, Lord Jesus!