Have you ever driven on a zigzag road?
If you have, then you know how long it takes to get somewhere. It would be so much faster if you could just take a straight path to your destination. In today’s reading, we are told, “The winding roads shall be made straight.” But the real question is why roads, especially the road to God, get crooked in the first place.
The answer is simple: First, we follow our will, and then we veer back to God. But that doesn’t last and we go our own selfish way again. Then we decide to do it God’s way, but before long, we are wandering off down our own road of bad intentions again. We do this over and over, and pretty soon we have created a very zigzag path indeed.
How do we make our path straight? By following God’s will wholeheartedly. Our Father gently calls us to repent from our crooked paths and return home to him. He reaches out and offers to help us find our way directly back to him. But it’s up to us if we are going to accept his offer to return from our self-imposed exile and “come back rejoicing, carrying [our] sheaves.”
First Reading Reflection
Baruch was the name of the secretary of Jeremiah, the prophet who prophesied before and during the Babylonian exile of Israel. The exile in Babylon was a tremendously troublesome time for Israel. It was also a time of extraordinary religious significance because in the depths of their oppression, Israel was richly blessed by the reform and renewal of covenant life. The Babylonian exile was important to Israel as a symbol of God’s justice and love. The Church—the new Israel— also looks to this Old Testament period of covenant renewal to help us prepare for celebration of the New Covenant in Christ which occurs at Christmas. Since the Church proposes the Babylonian exile of Israel to us as a model for our Advent preparation, we ought to read Baruch as though he were speaking directly to us in our exile in “Babylon.”
Second Reading Reflection
In this reading, Paul tells the Philippians his prayers for them are filled with joy and thanksgiving. What is the source of his joy and thankfulness? It’s that the Philippians are partners with Paul in working for the Gospel. The Gospel is a source of unity between them. In fact, whenever people share the work of the Gospel it becomes a great source of unity that, in turn, brings joy.
There are three things Paul requests in his prayer for the Philippians: an abundance of love, greater knowledge, and discernment. Paul often has his eyes turned toward the “Day of the Lord,” the day when Christ will judge all at the end of time. Paul wants the Philippians to be found worthy of the Kingdom of Christ on that day. Paul, like a good runner, has his eyes fixed on the finish line and encourages his fellow athletes in Christ to do the same.
Gospel Reading Reflection
Luke shows a remarkable interest in tying together the Old Covenant and the New Covenant in Christ. Luke is believed to have been a Gentile, and it’s likely that the time he spent sharing the missionary travels of St. Paul gave him profound insight into the intimate connection between Judaism and its fulfillment in Christ.
In this week’s reading, John the Baptist’s ministry is introduced; he’s the last prophet of the Old Covenant and the first of the New Covenant. John is the great precursor of the Messiah that the prophet Isaiah had foretold. He is, in fact, the precursor of Christ in our souls this Advent season. In a homily on Luke, the early Church theologian, Origen says of the Baptist, “I think that the mystery of John is still being carried on in the world. If a man is to believe in Jesus Christ, the spirit and power of John must first come into his soul and prepare for the Lord a perfect people, make the rough ways of the heart plain, make the crooked straight. Even now the spirit and power of John precede the coming of our Lord and Savior.”
Underlying the Readings today is a heartfelt longing to go home, to find a straight path back to God from the exile that results from our taking a zigzag path. The feeling of exile and the desire to return home are ones we all experience at times. What are some different types of exile that we can experience? Which type of exile is the most difficult for you?
On this Second Sunday of Advent, let us consider how the message of John the Baptist calling for a “new exodus” is a timeless message that has great relevance for us today as we wait and watch for the coming of the Lord, both during this Advent season and at the end of time. As you watch the short Opening the Word video on FORMED.org, consider where in your own life you might be “in exile.”
In an Advent message in 2011, Pope Benedict said that John the Baptist’s mission “was an extraordinary appeal to conversion,” “a fiery invitation to a new way of thinking and acting,” and, above all, “the announcement of God’s justice.” He added, “Therefore, John’s appeal goes far beyond and deeper than a call to a sober lifestyle: it is a call for inner change, starting with the recognition and confession of our sins.”
How does recognition and confession of our sins begin to straighten the paths of our lives?
What are some ways in which you’ve experienced God’s grace keeping you on a straight path in your life?
Saturdays in the Church
at 9:15 am and 3:45 pm, 6:15 pm (Spanish).
Mondays & Fridays in the Church
7:30 am in English & Spanish.
1st and 3rd Wednesdays in the Convent Chapel at 2:30 pm.
Act of Contrition
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven, and the pains of hell; but most of all because
they offend Thee, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.
Reflections reprinted here with permission from Augustine Institute.