Theme: The ministry of John the Baptist
By: Fr. Cyril Unachukwu CCE
Homily for Sunday December 5 2021
One of the major themes of the Season of Advent is that of Preparation. It is never enough to just wait for the coming of the Lord. Rather, it is better and more profound to prepare ourselves in order to receive Him worthily when He comes. Because of our lack of knowledge of the exact time when the Lord will come, the preparation that we are invited to make is a continuous process; a process that sees us growing stronger and firmer in the practice of the Christian Virtues and running as far as we can from the cultivation of vice. May the grace of God help us in this ongoing process of preparation; Amen.
The Ministry of John the Baptist was centred on preparing the people of his time to properly receive the Messiah through “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” He was indeed the forerunner of the Lord Jesus Christ. John the Baptism was quite aware that waiting for the Lord without sincerely and properly preparing for His coming is a waiting in vain. Hence, the Gospel Reading (Luke 3:1-6) recounts for us the preaching of John the Baptist in this regard; “prepare a way for the Lord, make His paths straight. Every valley will be filled in, every mountain and hill be laid low, winding ways will be straightened and rough roads made smooth.” Using very strong symbolic language and imageries, John the Baptist reminds us that the preparation in question demands complete overhauling. It is a preparation that touches every aspect of our being and existence. Saint Paul, in the Second Reading of today (Phil 1:4-6, 8-11), informs us of the essence of this preparation which is to make us ready in such a way that we “become pure and blameless, and prepare ourselves for the Day of Christ, when we will reach the perfect goodness which Jesus Christ produces in us for the glory and praise of God.” Impurity obscures the manifestation of God’s glory in us. Likewise, the accumulation of blames as a result of waywardness produces the same result. Impurity and accumulation of blames are directly against the end which God has for us by coming to us. The Prophecy of Baruch in the First Reading (Baruch 5:1-9) highlighted God’s wishes for us in coming to visit us. By means of His coming, “God means to show our splendour to every nation under heaven.” This gracious offer of God is something we can never give to ourselves. It is something we have need of, without which we lose the very taste and purpose of life. Without this gracious splendour which God bestows on us, we depreciate in quality and possess a deplorable image. A fruitful Advent Preparation lays the foundation upon which God accomplishes this wish in order to manifest Himself in us and around us.
How can one properly prepare for the coming of the Lord? It is a preparation that is integral and comprehensive; touching every aspect of our lives. We are called to prepare because we are certain that the coming of Christ is essentially for our good. He comes to liberate, redeem and save us! He comes that we may be reconciled with God and with one another! He comes to renew the face of the earth and to inspire us to work for the common good! He comes to bridge all the dividing lines and walls we have constructed against each other! Understanding that the coming of Christ is for our good helps us to appreciate all the means which God has given us to prepare ourselves to encounter Him, and the need to utilize these means as such. These means include the active participation and reception of the Sacraments, especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist! They include also the capacity to be recollective, and to make a retreat where and when it is possible. They include also conscious and sincere practice of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. Further still, our preparation is progressive when we are able to do as much good works as possible and to avoid every form of evil, assisted by God’s grace. Of course, the Advent Preparation is soulless without prayers and the ability to sacrifice for the good of others. These constitute what it means to make His paths straight, to fill in every valley, to level every mountain and to smoothen all rough roads! These form what it means to have a fruitful and gracious Advent! These compose what it actually means to prepare to encounter God, Whose wish it is to meet us in the best possible state.
Lord, without Your abiding grace, our Advent Preparations are empty, focusless and unsuccessful. Help us to realise the things that must be done and to wholeheartedly do them, and in doing them, may we become ready to welcome You when You come; Amen. Happy Sunday; Fr Cyril CCE