- Fr. John Jennings
Our Sacred Stories: Preparing the Way of the Lord
Preparing the Way of the Lord
Almost 500 years ago, an English poet, John Donne wrote
a poem that began with these words:
No [person] is an island, entire to [themselves],
Every [person] is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
Donne’s words are a reminder that we rely on one another, that we are not alone in this world and our lives and well-being depend on the efforts and help of others. Significantly, who we are is the result of many who in love and care have made us who we are today. No one gets through life alone.
Looking back, I can recognize a host of family and friends, colleagues and communities who have formed and influenced me over the years. Some, I could name, others are without names, but just as significant in the influence they have had. They did so in many ways, as mentors and examples, by encouragement and challenges.
The Advent season draws us into such reflection as we consider who we are as disciples of Jesus the Christ, Christians. In our Scriptures we find the stories of who we are and how we have become. In them we discover the great love that God has for all creation, all humanity. We also encounter the challenge of what we are called to be as God’s presence comes to be seen in our midst.
John the Baptist as well as the prophet Baruch are figures of this season. Their cry dominates the story of what we are becoming in and for our world. John’s call is clear as Luke presents it: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight…. and all flesh shall see the salvation of God (Luke 3:4-6).
This is a message of hope and joy. The message acknowledges God’s love acting among us. It is a message not for a few, but for all humanity. The hope it proclaims is not a limited one. God’s dream first expressed in a life-giving creation, is that life-giving love is for all of that creation and is freely given.
It is also, a challenge. We are called to prepare this creation for the acknowledgement of this God-presence. It is among us and within us, crying out for life-giving expression in every place and age. We are part of God’s dream in an active way in our own age. We have a role to play expressing and building God’s reign of love, compassion and peace.
John is called the “baptizer”, for he came forth proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:3). “Repentance” is not an end in itself. It is a translation of a Greek word, metanoia which is about an inner change of heart. To repent is to let go of all that impedes what is to come. Its meaning then is not so much getting rid of something, as it is preparing the way for something new and life-giving.
Both the prophet Baruch (5:1-9) and John the Baptist, issue a clarion call for the coming of a new world that expresses the peace, justice, freedom and harmony of God’s reign among us. What was proclaimed by each of these prophetic voices, was expressed in the message and mission of Jesus. It has been passed on to us as a mission for the whole world, for all humanity. The Spirit of Jesus draws all humanity to God’s dream of justice and peace, freedom and harmony. We are to live as the prophetic voices of God’s dream in our own age.