Advent: Preparing the Way of the Lord

Matthew 17:9a,10-13
Sir 48:1-4,9-11 / Psa 80

You are destined, it is written, in time to come to put an end to wrath before the day of the LORD, to turn back the hearts of fathers toward their children…
(Sirach 48:10)

He has come “to restore all things,”
Jesus, our Savior, King of kings.
Make straight our ways, repent from sins,
Or we’ll never recognize Him.

As they were coming down from the mountain … His disciples asked Jesus, “Then why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” He replied, “Elijah will indeed come and restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not know him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that He was speaking to them of John the Baptist. (Matthew 17:9a,10-13)

Reflection

St. John the Baptist was the last herald of God before the Messiah finally appeared. Elijah was the first of the great prophets of the Old Testament who singlehandedly faced 450 prophets of Baal and Asherah in Mt. Carmel to show the people of Israel the folly of following the false gods of King Ahab and Jezebel (1 Kings, 18:19-40). Elijah was taken up alive by a flaming chariot into heaven (2 Kings 2:11). The Jews believed that he would return to herald the coming of the Messiah, as their prophet Malachi predicted: “I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me” (Mal.3:1), and “Lo, I will send you Elijah the prophet, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and terrible day, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children…” (Mal.3:23).

Elijah had indeed returned—in the person of St. John, but only figuratively speaking, or only in spirit. As the angel Gabriel told Zechariah, his father about him: “He will be great in the sight of the Lord… he will go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers towards their children…” (Lk.1:15,17).

What is important to note is that St. John the Baptist still plays an important role in the season of Advent. He was commissioned by God since his conception to prepare the people for their redemption. Every Advent he reminds us: “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand!” When our Lord said, “So also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands,” He also meant that He suffers whenever we fall into grievous sin. Let us not forget that Jesus had already done everything that any man or God could give to redeem us. Sin is really a great insult to God because the sinner takes for granted Christ’s great sacrifice and death and his boundless love.

Repentance cleans us of our sins and makes us whole again so that we can recognize the importance of Advent in our lives. Our God is a God of compassion, and forgives us for not having prepared ourselves well to “recognize Him” in the faces of the hungry and the needy — perhaps too preoccupied with decorating our Christmas tree, hanging yuletide decors in the house, and going to the malls for the gifts of our godchildren. This is not the only way to prepare for His coming.

As we prepare ourselves for Your Son’s coming, Lord God, inspire us to be also involved in charitable acts, as much as in making commitments for the coming new year. As this is the time of the year when we start making our “New Year’s Resolutions”, may we resolve above everything to follow Jesus faithfully. Amen.

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