“Prepare the way of the Lord!”
As we begin this holy season of Advent, this year is a bit different because we are more formally focusing our attention on our Discipleship Pathway. This is a perfectly acceptable approach to the season; as the Glossary of the Catechism points out, the purpose of this season is “devoted to preparation for the coming of Christ.” What better way is there to prepare for His coming than to focus on deepening our own conversion?
This conversion always includes the key factor of discipleship, as Pope St. John Paul the Great illustrates: “Conversion means accepting, by a personal decision, the saving sovereignty of Christ and becoming his disciple.” (Redemptoris Missio, #46). The great call of St. John the Baptist is to do just that, to embrace our own conversion in the face of the Coming of the King of Kings! The whole point of Advent is to prepare our hearts to encounter the Lord Jesus, so that He may be born more deeply in us.
What we wish to avoid is having a heart so full of so many other things, even good things, that when He comes to us He finds, as happened in Bethlehem, “no room at the inn.” One of the unfortunate ironies of this season is that so much of our activity is bound up with important but truly secondary aspects of this time that we don’t actually do what is most helpful—prepare our hearts for the King! The preparations for Christmas in regards to gifts, food, events, etc., etc., all may have a place, but if the end result is we are too busy to adequately prepare our hearts for Him, then we are too busy!
Every day during this time the King comes to us and invites us to spend time with Him. During this Year of the Bible, spending time with Him should certainly include reading the Book, joining with thousands of our brothers and sisters in our diocese as we ponder the Words of Scripture that both prepare our hearts for a greater encounter with Him on Christmas but are also, in a very real way, an encounter with His real Presence even as we read!
Let us not be like the guests He invited to the banquet, who all made excuses instead of coming to the Feast the King had prepared for them that day. This entire season is a preparation for a deeper encounter with the Lord Jesus as we celebrate His Birth. As we focus on Encounter, the second aspect of our Discipleship Pathway, we are really bringing our hearts and actions into alignment with the purpose of this sacred time. Our desire for all the people of Christ the King is that they would have a deeper encounter with the Lord Jesus!
The Gospel for today particularly highlights one of the great vehicles for doing that: receiving more of the Holy Spirit! Even as St. John the Baptist points out, while his ministry is to prepare the way, it is the Lord Jesus Himself Who has come to baptize us with the Holy Spirit! The Spirit is the abundant agent of change, the agent of conversion in our lives. One of the great roles of the Spirit is to prepare hearts for the King and then to facilitate that encounter. We don’t have to wait for the Spirit to arrive, because He has been with us since our Baptism, was greatly strengthened in us at our Confirmation, and especially actively cooperates with us every time we pray in tongues, praying “in the Spirit.” The more we seek the Spirit and yield to His gifts, the more our hearts are prepared for the Coming of the King.
During this holy season and subsequently, cooperating with those ways that bring the Spirit more deeply into our lives is crucial, e.g., Upper Room, Alpha, the Life in the Spirit Seminars, other prayer opportunities, especially praying over each other for more of the Spirit in our family settings. All of these actions prepare us to deepen our Encounter with the One Who calls us to Himself, the One Who loved us first! The King of Kings is passionately in love with us! Prepare His way! Even so, come, Lord Jesus, come! — Fr. Ed Fride