By John Fitzgerald,
I WAS TRAVELLING on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (BQE) a few days ago, headed for Brooklyn. Whenever I am delayed by heavy traffic, which is always the case on the BQE, I start to reflect on the Scripture readings for the coming weekend. The passages for the second week of Advent came to mind as I bounced from one pothole to another.
In the times of Isaiah, paved roads and byways were few and very far apart. Most roads were rough, rugged, full of holes and very dangerous (remember the man helped by the Good Samaritan). Isaiah paints a picture of the roads while giving us a way to celebrate the season of Advent.
“In the desert prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God.
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.”
It is not by chance that many years later John the Baptist would proclaim: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”
Advent, unlike the penitential season of Lent, is a season of preparation for the coming of the Christ. In the ancient world, when a dignitary was to visit a town, the population would stop their normal work. The luminary deserved a road that would be smooth, straight and safe. To have a governor fall from his carriage because of a hole in the road would be unthinkable.
There is a VIP coming in a few weeks. He was born in a small town to an uneducated, probably poor mother, and the man who was to raise him was a carpenter. Yet over 2000 years later, He is acknowledged as the Savior.
We can’t fix roads, we can’t level mountains and hills, and we can’t make the rugged land a plain. So, what can we do to “prepare the way of the Lord”?
That question that caused me to think about where and who I am, so that I know what I can do. I am a man who has been blessed many times over. I have a wonderful and loving spouse, three grown children who give me great joy, a roof over my head and enough people to remind me to be humble.
So with all I am and all I have, I was still at a loss for how to prepare – until I listened to the group of people who meet on Wednesday evenings in anticipation of receiving all or some of the sacraments of initiation at the Easter Vigil.
The suggestions they made about welcoming Christ were physical, emotional and spiritual. And while you may already have found a way to prepare, here are a few more ideas:
Give: Even if you have little, you can feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and bury the dead. The corporal works of mercy provide us with a lot to offer others in need.
- Forgive: You have been hurt and the pain is still with you. Work on forgiving the person who hurt you.
- Give up anger: The anger you carry is blocking much of the joy in your life.
- Say thank you: There are priests, deacons, nuns, brothers and/or single people who are making a positive impact in your life. We tend to forget how difficult their vocations have become. A life of service, even if given freely, could use a thank you and an acknowledgement.
- Don’t carry guilt: Confess and be truly sorry if you have hurt another person or have done something that has caused you shame.
- Celebrate Advent and Christmas for what they are, not what they’ve become: Try to remember what gifts you got and the gifts you gave last Christmas. You probably can’t. But you will remember the kindness you received during the season. Pass that onto others.
Remember that Christmas is not just one day that comes and goes. Celebrate Christ every day of the year in every thing you do.
There are many more things you can do to “prepare the way of the Lord” in your life. The important thing is that you do something. And the more you do for Him this Advent, the merrier your Christmas will be.
Fitzgerald is a parishioner of St. Joan of Arc, Jackson Heights, and a lay pastoral minister.