The prophet Baruch proclaims that the people of Jerusalem who were led away by enemies and have been exiled, held hostage, in Babylon for many years are returning home! They will be lead, not by a man, but by God, back to Jerusalem. Every man shall see the glory of God, and know that He is the God of Israel and the Israelites are His people!
John the Baptist proclaims the coming of the Lord who will save them from sin and lead them to the Kingdom of God! John uses the words of Second Isaiah (who was a contemporary of Baruch), “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 God.” Isaiah is referring to God in his proclamation concerning the Lord; John is talking about Jesus when he uses the word “Lord” and when he uses the words of Isaiah “salvation of God.”
I struggled with these readings until finally I could see that the proclamations are virtually the same. We are as the Israelites who have been led away by enemies (sins) and have been exiled, and held hostage, from the promised land (the Kingdom of God) and John is telling us to “Look! They are returning home! They are being led by Jesus himself and all flesh shall see the salvation of God!”
There is only one thing that holds us hostage away from our heavenly Father and that is sin. It is an impenetrable wall between ourselves and God. God’s love is so great and His desire for His children to return home so strong that He sacrificed His only begotten son to gain our release from the sin that holds us captive. As prisoners of sin, we have heard that our salvation is at hand. We have been instructed as to what to do to prepare ourselves to be led back from exile into the promised land. We must prepare ourselves for the journey by repenting (heartfelt sorrow) and rejecting our sins and being cleansed by baptism for the forgiveness of our sins. Then we are prepared for our next step, baptism by fire, or the Holy Spirit, which will enable us to travel into the promised land.
We have been delivered good news! A savior is coming to save us! We will no longer be hostages of our sins! We will be free and we will return home! Imagine what it must be like for people who have loved ones that are being held hostage by militant groups. Every day they hear news of them, still hostage, and wonder if they will ever see them alive again…will they ever come home again…do they know how much they are loved and missed and how many broken hearted tears are shed? Now imagine that God is our loved one at home, hearing news of our hostage state every day and wondering the very same things about us. Imagine that God sends a redeemer, a savior, who battles against our enemies, gains our freedom and leads us back home and that redeemer is His own and only begotten son. If you can imagine what it would be like if someone you loved very much was held hostage like this, you can understand the great love that God has for us and the great joy He has at our return, alive and well!
Advent is a special time to prepare ourselves for the redeemer. We cannot cleanse our own sin, this must be done through the blood of Jesus and His divine mercy in the sacraments of Baptism and Reconciliation. This is the time we renew our Baptismal vows (believe in God, accept Jesus as the only begotten Son of God who died to take away the sin of the world, who rose from the dead and will return to judge the living and the dead, reject Satan and all his evil ways, etc.) and cleanse ourselves of anything which may be a burden to our conscience and well being in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Do not be afraid of Reconciliation. It is a gift from our Lord that you shall receive forgiveness for your sins and in participating in reconciliation you effectively cleanse your mind, body and soul of all the little burdens (I like to think of these little sins that build up as like tarnish on silver – it dims it’s brightness but doesn’t destroy it unless it is left unclean for a very long time), which can become heavy when lots of little ones are piled on, making yourself a more ready receptacle for God’s grace!
The Psalm this week is Psalm 126: The Lord Has Done Great Things For Us Music Link Lead Sheet
Have a blessed 2nd week of Advent! Rejoice! For the kingdom of God is at hand!