Imagine you have a friend coming to stay over Christmas. You are very excited about this because you haven’t seen this friend in a number of years. You are looking forward to having the time to talk about old times and catch up on what is going on in your lives. You have a guest room but you haven’t had many guests recently so the room hasn’t been used all that much. It has become a catch all space. In fact the room has become a real mess. You know you have to get this room straightened out, made presentable before your guest gets here. You certainly wouldn’t want her to see it as it is now.
In a way we can see the season of Advent in this scenario. Our lives have become cluttered with so many concerns about family or job security, the economy and world events in general. We have so many things on our minds, so many projects we’ve yet to finish. We are so far behind schedule. We are just too busy to find some time to stop and think and pray. Maybe we don’t find missing Mass on Sunday all that big a deal.
That’s why John the Baptist is so important to this Advent season. John calls us to get our acts together, he calls us to get in touch with the real issues of our lives, issues we tend to avoid thinking about. He calls us to straighten the guest room of our lives and make room for the coming Christ – the Christ who comes into our lives daily in every friend or stranger we meet.
As in his own time so now in our time John calls people to repent. In the Judaic mind the religious sense of these words included the idea of “turning” to God from ways that are disobedient or displeasing to God. John calls each of us to honestly face those attitudes of mind and heart that exclude from our lives men and women who do not believe as we believe, men and women who live different life styles than we do, men and women who come from a different cultural background other than our own – men and women we often refer to as ‘those people.’
Maybe our personal hills and valleys and crooked ways are because our hearts are caught up in our own desires to have the best for ourselves and for our families or maybe our hearts are hardened to friends, neighbours and strangers who are in need of help and support and we lack the willingness to share with the gifts with which we’ve been blessed with others. Maybe we tried and tried and tried again to overcome addictions to what we know to be our vices, but we find the hills too high, the valleys too deep, the road too crooked and we’re convinced we just don’t have the strength, the will power to really make any changes.
All these attitudes are the valleys and hills and crooked roads John calls each of us to repair so that God in Christ finds no hindrance as he seeks to come into our lives.
Those who first heard John’s word and tried to follow them showed their willingness to bring changes into the ways they lived by washing themselves in the waters of the Jordan River, the life source for the land of Israel. By this simple action they showed their desire to turn from their wicked ways so that God would forgive and forget all there transgressions. The sacrament of reconciliation is our way of washing in the life giving waters of God’s grace.
Here is a quote from someone’s Advent prayer,
“Come into my life. I trust you don’t mind if it is still messy. I believe you love me, because I need your love. I don’t fear you can’t find the way to my heart. Come and fill me with peace and the love only you can give.” “Come, Lord, Jesus, come into our home, into our family, into our struggles. Come and heal us, and give us joy again. Come and unite us and let us experience, each in our own way, a bit of the joy you are offering us now.”
As we continue this Mass may each of us make this prayer our own – come Lord Jesus, come into my life messy though it may be.