BY: Fr. Abbot Philip Lawrence



My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Advent pulls our hearts to the Lord! Advent is a time to begin anew. Advent is a time to be still and listen again to the Word of the Lord. All of this is to say that we must prepare the way of the Lord in our lives and in our hearts.

The first reading today is from the Prophet Isaiah. We have to understand this word as originally aimed at the Jewish people who had been taken out of their own land and were living in a foreign land without must capacity to celebrate their own faith. These people longed to return to their own land and to rebuild the temple of the Lord. As in any community, we can be sure that not everyone wanted to return because they knew that returning would be even worse hardship than staying where they were.

This is a parallel to our own lives today. We are in exile from the Lord because of our sins and the sins of our ancestors. Not everyone today wants to turn to the Lord because the Lord makes demands on our lives. The words of the Prophet Isaiah can be addressed to us if we long to live according to the Word of the Lord and recognize that we cannot do that without the grace and mercy of God in our lives.

If we have tried to be faithful and find ourselves failing over and over, then surely the words of Isaiah speak to us! Comfort, give comfort to my people! Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low; the rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed.

When we are using our energies to seek the Lord, these words of Isaiah can bring tears to our eyes and open our hearts so much more to the presence of the Living God, who is seeking us.

The Second Letter of Saint Peter, from which is taken the second reading today, repeats this lesson to us: “The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” It is God Himself who wants to give us comfort but can only do so insofar as our hearts are open and waiting for Him. It is God who invites us to be patient and who reminds us: “Beloved, since you await these things, be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.”

Advent is a time to stir up our desire for God, to stir up our hope in the Lord, to deepen our awareness of His love for us.

The Gospel of Mark today gives us the account of John the Baptist, a man seeking the Lord with all his strength. Mark recognizes that John the Baptist is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy that speaks of the one who will go before the Lord to prepare His way. John himself speaks this way in the today’s passage. And John is so completely humbled by his task that he sees himself even unworthy to untie the thongs of the sandals of the Lord who comes.

Everything in and about John the Baptist points to the One Who Is To Come, the Savior, the Messiah.

May our lives become so focused on God and His ways in our lives that we become like John the Baptist: our lives only giving witness to the love and mercy of God and drawing others to that love and mercy.

Fr. Abbot Philip Lawrence, OSB Christ in the Desert Monastery, Abiquiu, New Mexico

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