Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Prepare the Way of the Lord

I continue to be delinquent in my posts on this blog. I am currently working hard to keep another blog up to date. That one is It is a blog for the Vocation Office for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and I try to put something up at least once per week, something related to priestly discernment and vocation.

But for this blog, I offer a little meditation for this Sunday's Gospel. We are progressing through the Season of Advent, the season in which we are mindful of the Love of God, because He gave us His Son for the sake of our salvation. We are constantly in a time of preparation and waiting, but the Season of Advent reminds us to be extra vigilant.

The Gospel of Mark immediately goes back to the prophet Isaiah, when the Evangelist says "Make ready the way of the Lord, clear him a straight path." When we hear this passage, we can take it perhaps two different ways. The first is a literal way, sanctifying one's surroundings as a way to prepare for the Lord. One may, in one's home, put a little Nativity Scene to remind us to prepare the way of the Lord. We may light candles, and maybe even burn incense.

The second way if a spiritual way. Instead of lighting candles in your home, God lights our hearts with the fire of His love. In this way of preparing for the Lord, we look to an interior cleansing as a way to grow closer in love of God. Advent is a special time to be mindful of growing in love of God, with graces given to us by God. So what are things we can do to dispose ourselved to these graces in this time or preparation? Prayer is the first order of business. By partaking in daily prayer, we are setting aside time every day to strengthen our relationship with God. I always say that in order to strengthen any relationship, there must be communication, and when there isn't communication, the relationship stalls.

The same is true of God. We must continually talk to him, and when we don't, our subjective relationship with him stalls. We must distinguish between an objective relationship and a subjective one. The objective will remain the same: A baptized man or woman will always remain an adopted child of God, for example. Nothing you do can change that, but the subjective flows from that, and makes us ask, how can we, from graces received at Baptism, continue to strengthen our relationship? And the answer is communication. Jesus speaks to us as well, but most of the time, unless we are Saint Paul, we must dispose ourselves to hear what he is saying. That involves quiet in a loud world. Sometimes that silent prayer is a sacrifice. There is always something else to do, but to take 10-15 minutes to pray can sometimes seem impossible to fit into a schedule. It involves sacrifice, and discipline.

So there are many simple things you can do to sanctify your day, preparing for yourself to prepare the way of the Lord. Many churches at this time of year have little meditation books in the back of Church that you can use for your meditation. They usually take 10 minutes at most. One of my Advent goals is to go through one such meditation book, and every day, praying through that meditation. Another way to prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas is to pray the Rosary every day. Now, sometimes, we can say: "But doesn't it take like 30 minutes to pray?" I offer you this: First, it take at most 25 minutes if you pray it reverently, 20 if you move at a faster pace. But no matter how fast or slow you may pray the Rosary, you can always pray it in the car on the way to and from work. I typically pray a Rosary on the way into work every day, and sometimes I pray it going home. I think of it as a sacrifice when I could be listening to Christmas music. There is also daily Mass; one can benefit greatly from abundant graces recieved at Holy Mass, so I would really recommend this one if you want to get the most out of the Season.

Many people do not realize that like the Season of Lent, Advent is a penetential season. Unlike Lent, Advent isn't a good time to give up your favorite food, since there are a number of parties during the season. I would hate to give up chocolate and go to three or four parties with big chocolate fountains. It would drive me nuts. There are other things to either give up, or to take up. Prayer is a great thing to take up, and it might be good to give up something like talking on the cell phone in the car when driving. First, it will free you up to offer prayer instead of chatter, and second, you will be a safer driver.

Preparing the way of the Lord is an important theme in Advent; it is the Season of Waiting, and so we await the coming of Christmas, that special day in which we remember the birthday of Jesus, who came into the world for the salvation of mankind. In the midst of all the parties, all the shopping, Christmas cards, and caroling, we must set aside some time to remember the real reason for all of those things. May you continue to have a safe and holy Advent, and may you strive to have the faith of a child, for Christ has taught us what it means to be a child by His birth at Christmas. Take care, and God bless you all.

St. Nicholas, pray for us.
St. Francis Xavier, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, pray for us.

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