“Prepare the way of the LORD!
Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!”
That passage from Isaiah is one of the most gripping pieces of scripture that we hear during Advent – a call to get busy and start building. It foretells what sounds like a massive reconstruction project.
But the work it involves is even more daunting than we may realize. In fact, I’d say it’s the most challenging work we have to do in the next three weeks — more challenging, even, than finishing our Christmas shopping or fighting the mobs at the mall. The fact is, the road-building that we’re being called to do doesn’t involve reconstructing Queens Boulevard or adding a new exit ramp to the Long Island Expressway.
What scripture is referring to isn’t out there.
It’s in here.
The terrain that is being described in Isaiah is really the landscape of the heart.
We’re being called to do nothing less than to clear a path in our lives for God – to make room for Him.
That is what Advent is all about – “preparing the way of the Lord” to make him welcome.
So, during this time of preparation, we scan the horizon of our lives. Look closely. What do we see?
What are the deep valleys that need to be filled in?
Where are the places that are hollow, or empty?
Are there rugged stretches – sharp, and painful, and hard – that need to be made smooth?
Are there roadblocks that get in the way? Are there potholes?
Now is the time to do something about it.
Now is the time to remove all the obstacles – those things that have closed us off from one another, and from God. John the Baptist says as much in the gospel, calling out for repentance.
The message again and again: clear the path. Open our hearts. Prepare the way of the Lord!
We hear those words every year during Advent. But they have even deeper meaning for the candidates and catechumens in RCIA, whom we welcome tonight.
This Mass began like no other: with the hard, plain sound of a knock on the door. Two thousand years ago, Christ told his followers: “Seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened.” Tonight, those who who are seeking knocked – and the Church opened the door with joy, and with love.
That knock carries meaning. It is the sound of a beginning – a journey being undertaken, a call being answered. It is the sound of wanting, of seeking, of questioning. That knock is the sound of people who hunger for God, and for grace, and for the bread of life, the Eucharist. It is the sound of men and women seeking to join us at the table of the Lord, to be a part of the Body of Christ
That knock is the sound of the church continuing to be renewed and reborn – of our history being written and our faith being passed on.
It is the most beautiful sound in the world.
And it is one we all need to hear right now. It reminds us of another who knocks, another who desires to be a part of us and who wants to be welcomed in from the cold and the dark.
Opening the doors to these candidates and catechumens, we open as well the doors to Christ.
And together we begin the work of smoothing the way, straightening the path, building a highway to welcome him.
If we do it right, we will undertake one of the greatest construction projects we can imagine. The landscape of our lives will be changed. We can be changed.
So, let the great work begin. Break out the shovels.
And prepare the way of the Lord!