In the first reading from the Book of the Prophet Baruch,
God gives hope and healing to his people,
He gives hope and healing to his people who mourn.
They mourn the loss of their children,
They mourn the loss of their families, and their friends
They watched with unspeakable sadness as those whom they loved were marched off into exile by the Babylonians.
Can you imagine seeing your family, being marched away?
Can you imagine how it felt having little hope of ever seeing them again?
The people in the first reading mourn the destruction of their city,
the loss of the temple,
and they especially mourn the loss of their relationship with God.
Even though Baruch probably wrote 400 years after the Babylonian exile.
He calls it to mind to give hope to his own people. They too faced terrible persecutions.
His message is simple.
God gave hope to His people during the Babylonian exile,
and God will give you hope.
All hope comes from God.
And so in the first reading the Prophet tells the people of Jerusalem to go to heights and look to the East and the West.
He wants them to see the return of those who were taken away.
He wants them to see the power and mercy of God.
He wants us all to know that those who were lead into exile were “remembered by God”
He never forgot them.
He never stopped loving them.
God’s love is so great that He even lowers the mountains and
fills in the valleys
to make their journey home easier.
He wants to make it easy for them to come home.
He wants to make it easy for everyone to come home.
In the Gospel, Luke situates the ministry of John in a specific time and place.
He sets the date of John’s ministry according to the reign of the Roman Emperor
He announces that John’s ministry is taking place in Galilee
And he announces the religious leaders of the time.
Luke wants us to know that John was a real person.
He wants us to know that he was not a pious legend but a real person.
John lived at a specific moment in time, and at specific place on earth just like me and just like you.
What is John’s message ?
it is simply this..
He challenges us to Prepare the way of the Lord…
Just like God prepared the way for the return of the exiles to Jerusalem
We have too prepare the way for God to come in our lives.
We must level the mountains of pride which make it so difficult for us to really love God and our neighbor.
We must fill in the valleys of our weakness and selfishness.
We must make the path to our heart straight by living thought filled, reflective and holy lives.
What does all of this have to do with us?
Like the people of Jerusalem all of us have been in very desperate straits.
All of us have had moments when we were tempted to lose hope.
And all of us have had to acknowledge that our weaknesses and our sins have often been the source of our despair.
The first reading reminds us that God’s love is greater than our sin or brokenness.
It reminds us that God’s love is greater than our infidelity.
The Prophet Baruch reminds us that God’s mercy is beyond limits.
With God there is always hope.
The Gospel clearly tells us that we must prepare a way in our hearts for God.
Just like God prepared for the return of His people
We must prepare for the coming of our savior.
Like God we must lower the mountains and fill in the valleys.
Our hearts are filled with so many things
Mountain of distractions.
Mountains of worries and concerns
Mountains of desires
We believe in mountains of false promises
Who among us doesn’t have Mountains of stubbornness and pride
We must level those mountains.
We must fill in the valleys of laziness .
We must Fill in those valleys of bad habits which we just don’t want to give up.
And what about those valleys of bitterness and anger when we refuse to forgive?
We have to fill in those valleys so that God can come.
We must make straight the pathways to our heart by living thought filled and thoughtful lives.
So often we wander around life being pulled in this direction or that direction.
So often we place ourselves under the influence of whatever catches our eye and the pathways of our life are crooked indeed.
The readings today remind us that
Advent is a time of preparation.
It is a time of expectation.
It is a time of hope.
Advent demands an active response from us
We are half way there… next week we light the pink candle.
We all know that the closer we get to Christmas the less time we will have.
If we haven’t carved out a little more space or time in our life for God during this advent it is not too late to do so.
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
Every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and hill shall be made low.”