by Fr Mark James OP
Second Sunday of Advent – “Prepare a way for the Lord”
Last week I went to visit a Deaf family near Luve. Driving back, I was conscious of all the roadworks happening on the road from Manzini to the King Mswati III airport. I noticed that modern roadworks and design follow the Biblical injunctions that are present in today’s first reading and Gospel where Baruch (5:8) says that the day is coming when the Lord God will level the mountains and raise the valleys and make the ground level and the road smooth and straight for the people of Israel.
The levelling of the road and preparing the path for the coming of the Christ is also how the mission of John the Baptist is described in Luke’s Gospel (3:4-5). John the Baptist is the herald who prepared the way for Jesus by calling the people of Israel to repentance, to a change of mind and heart, to conversion, or in Greek metanoia. It is a change that changes the orientation of the whole person.
While driving along I was conscious how road works and construction revealed interesting characteristics about different people. There were the impatient drivers who took any opportunity, even risky ones, to overtake and to get ahead of the traffic. There was one striking example. We had stopped at the stop street at the Mafutseni intersection near the petrol station (MR5). At the stop street was a heavily-laden truck indicating to turn right. I was about the third car behind the truck. A driver of a BMW behind me saw a gap in the traffic as the truck was turning, overtook us all and turned right with the truck on the MR3 towards Manzini. All of this was done on the wrong side of the road. The oncoming traffic from Manzini was slowed down by the speed humps so the driver made it without endangering anyone’s life. I was amazed at the driver’s audacity. This risky behaviour doesn’t always end without incident. Terrible accidents can happen because of the risks some drivers take.
As I drove on I was struck by other drivers’ attitudes. Many drivers were conscious of the slower driving conditions and behaved more cautiously and courteously. They pulled over to allow one to pass, they stopped to let cars or people cross the road, they drove with concern for the needs of other road-users. This brought me back to the readings for this Second Sunday of Advent. What type of metanoia, what type of conversion, what time of change of heart and mind do we need if we are to prepare for the way for the birth of the Saviour in our hearts this Christmas?
I realised that often in our lives we are so consumed with getting ahead, with getting our way, with beating the traffic and making sure that we get treated justly that we forget that there are other road-users in our lives too. Preparing the way for Jesus this Christmas means to take stock and to think about how we share this world with others, just as we share the roads we use. How can we be more considerate in our relations with one another? How do we live in such a way that we don’t just put ourselves first but take into consideration that this is a shared world we live in. How do we live that takes the needs of other people into account? Can we live in such a way that we all benefit, we can all travel ‘safely under the glory of God’ (Baruch 3:8). What change is needed in my life to ensure that the glory of God is made more manifest in our world? As Mother Teresa is often quoted as saying: ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.’
These need not be large and heroic actions on our part. The second reading from Philippians reminds us: ‘My prayer is that your love for each other may increase more and more.’ This the conversion we need to be more loving and considerate in our relations with one other. Even the courteous, ‘After you, sir’ is an act of love. Meister Eckhart said that saying ‘Thank you is itself a prayer.’ As the Christian song reminds us: ‘They will know that we are Christians by our love.’ Treat your companions along the journey of your life with courtesy and love; and you may suddenly discover that by Christmas day the Christ child has already been born in your heart.