Throughout Advent, Scots College seminarians are reflecting on the meaning of the season. At the start of the 2nd week of Advent, Christopher Doig from the Diocese of Aberdeen considers the message from Sunday’s Gospel.
In this second week of Advent there is an emphasis for the need of repentance and conversion, which means recognising that God’s kingdom is truly near us and making a serious attempt to reorder our lives to that reality. John the Baptist makes it clear that we must make a choice; there is no middle ground: either we prepare the way for the New King and help build up his kingdom with “fruits worthy of repentance” or we become an enemy of it, which will result in being “cut down and thrown into the fire” at the end of time when the Lord comes to judge the world. It is a matter of life or death.
John made a radical decision to prepare for this new kingdom by spending most of his life in the wilderness. He wore eccentric clothing, endured a strict diet and spent long times in solitude and, having studied the scriptures and prayed over them constantly, came to know that all the prophets spoke of the coming of a saviour. He grew so deep in self-knowledge that he recognised both the need for a saviour in his own life and his unworthiness to receive him: “I am not worthy to carry his sandals.”
How can we prepare the way for the Lord this advent?
I don’t think that we have to wear camel skin coats as they are probably difficult to find and rather expensive; eating locusts and wild honey might get a bit monotonous and even the health freaks might disapprove of such a diet; but the wilderness is definitely a place for us. To be in the wilderness means to come out of our comfort zones and expose ourselves to the unknown, so we can understand this, spiritually, to mean being exposed to the promptings of God’s grace. To do this, we must first make room in our hearts for silence and wait for the Lord to speak to us. Perhaps setting aside twenty minutes a day with a passage from Isaiah or adoring our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament can be a way of helping us better prepare for Our Lord’s Coming.
The ‘fruits of repentance’ of which John speaks are interior prayer and a growth in the virtues. Perhaps we need to examine ourselves in the silence of our hearts and before God to see what needs to grow in us. If temperance is a problem, then doing a little fast might be a good way of preparing for the Coming of the Lord; if charity is lacking, then committing oneself to small acts of generosity and kindness to those less fortunate can help bring the kingdom of God to them.
We pray, through the intercession of St John the Baptist, for the gift of repentance and a growth in the virtues so that we can build up God’s kingdom and our lives cry out to the world that is yet to receive him, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”