Fr. Slater’s Second Week of Advent Message
It often surprises people when they read the Gospel According to Mark for the first time that the text does not begin with the familiar stories of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus. Mark begins by telling his readers that the words of scripture have been fulfilled. In other words, the time of fulfillment has come. John the Baptist is identified as the one crying out in the desert, calling out to the people to prepare for the coming of the Lord. The baptism he practiced was a water ritual that marked repentance, an outward sign of a profound interior change of mind and heart, a turning away from sin to the Lord.
In the gospel passage today we are reminded that we must prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ. This preparation is not something we can measure by the check-offs on a “to-do” list for Christmas, e.g., decorating, buying, and cooking. The preparation I am referring to involves opening our hearts and removing the obstacles, the attitudes that prevent us from turning wholeheartedly to God. But in the midst of all the frenzied activity perhaps a first, most important thing for us is to repeatedly remind ourselves of the need to prepare ourselves spiritually. May I suggest a simple exercise that takes 10-15 seconds, one that can be done anywhere, at anytime: as we stand on checkout lines or as we are backed up in traffic attempting to enter a mall; as we stand on the LIRR platform or as we put down the newspaper or turn off the computer. Whenever, wherever. simply repeat over and again to yourself the words of scripture we heard today:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.”
Why do it? Because in those few seconds, in the midst of all the many things that call out for our attention, we turn our minds to God and open ourselves to hear the voice of God, the one call that is most important. By doing it over and over throughout the day we punctuate our lives with prayer. Just as punctuation of a series of words makes them intelligible, helping us recognize the meaning of events and identifying the questions to be raised, the punctuation of our lives with the simple words of scripture/prayer can help us to find meaning in the all too busy, confusing moments of our lives. We might also find ourselves suddenly becoming aware of how I need to straighten the path to my heart so that the Lord might enter. Try it. What can you lose? 10-15 seconds?