Second Week of Advent - Straightening Our Paths to God

Please take a moment to enjoy this week's reflection from Fr. Michal Wojciak, S.A.C.

With the second Sunday of Advent, we are a step closer on our journey of hopeful and joyful waiting for our celebration of the first coming of Christ to us.  It is often said that hope dies last. Hope is one of the virtues which for the Church (and probably for every Catholic) means (or should mean) a lot. It is also said that at the end of time when we will meet Jesus face to face, faith will pass into oblivion (because it will be replaced with knowledge) and hope (because it will be fulfilled). Only love will remain.

The first reading of the Second Sunday of Advent is from the Book of the Prophet Baruch and the context is the history of the Israelites and the Babylonian captivity. In this passage, the prophet writes about the fact that someday the captivity will end.  He exhorts “Jerusalem to take off your robe of mourning and misery.”  Further along, he says, “Led away on foot by their enemies, they left you but God will bring them back to Jerusalem on paths made level and straight by lowering the lofty mountains and filling in the age-old depths and gorges so that the people may return secure in the glory of God.”  In meditating upon this passage one can explore certain questions regarding their own spirituality:

•    Am I in spiritual exile now?  Why am I in spiritual exile?  What makes me suffer?  What am I afraid of?  How can I return from my spiritual exile?  Whose help do I need on my journey of return? 
•    The Israelites lost God’s protection due to their infidelity to the Covenant.  Have I lost God’s favor due to my infidelity to my religious beliefs?  If I have, do I understand what led me to my personal loss and how do I return to God’s favor?
•    Do I understand, that despite the experience of sin and slavery and loss, God is with me and will free me from my exile, if I want to be freed through the sacrament of reconciliation?

In the Gospel from St. Luke for this Sunday, we are introduced to John, son of Zachariah and Elizabeth, also known as John the Baptist and to us as St. John the Baptist.  He holds a very pivotal place in our faith at this time, as St. Luke says, “he went throughout the whole region of the Jordan Rover proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”  Luke references not Baruch but Isaiah, who prophesied about St. John the Baptist, referring to him as “A voice of one crying out in the desert:  Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.  Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low.  The winding roads shall be made straight and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of our God.”

In the above reference, it is important to examine the sentence, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”  In researching this passage, I read that St. John the Baptist in pointing to this straightening uses the wording that refers to the traces that cattle leave in a pasture.  It is worth trying to imagine what this tangle of hoof tracks looks like.  These paths begin nowhere and end nowhere.  They cross each other hundreds of times and create a labyrinth that cannot be unraveled.  The prophet, using this picture, says straighten these paths.  Probably, this is an allusion to two things.  First, you have to prepare for your meeting with Christ and it will require a significant effort on your part to do so.  That significant effort will require self-denial, repentance, and prayer to make the labyrinth to Christ straight.  Second, if the prophet says it is possible to straighten such tangled paths, then it is possible!  Many times I have met people who say their lives are such a labyrinth that it is not possible to straighten or repair what they have done.  They are in a state of despair.  If, however, belief is there, then God will lead them and help them straighten the path to Him.

At this sacred time in the liturgical year, are we straightening our paths to the Lord in preparation for the celebration of His birth?  In a personal sense, are we straightening our paths for our personal meeting with our Lord?  This sacred time is a good time to reflect on the status of our relationship with our Lord and Savior and do something about it.  It’s a choice – your choice.