“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.”
From Sunday’s First Reading from the Prophet Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
This Sunday we hear the beginning of the Gospel of Mark; it includes no infancy narratives as found in Luke and Matthew but jumps right into the voice of John the Baptist, the one crying in the desert, to prepare the way of the Lord and make straight his paths. When Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life” in John 14:6, he invites us to follow him in every roadway, every journey we take in life. For Deutero-Isaiah, written when the Hebrew people were in exile, the road to Jerusalem was blocked during the people’s exile in Babylon. This further stoked the people’s dream and desire to one day be free to journey back home. Isaiah prophesies that one day, that roadway will once again be open and flowing. All of the obstacles to travel, winding roads, valleys and hills, will symbolically be smoothed over as the exiles cling to the hope of one day journeying back to Jerusalem.
What roads are you traveling on? What destinations are you seeking? For John the Baptist, and even us today, the road towards Christ begins with self-negation and purification. It starts with seeking repentance and living out our own baptism. The waters of baptism wash over and remove all of our sins; the oil of catechumens and chrism free us from the bondage of evil and forever mark us as worthy sons and daughters of Christ our King. Baptism initiates our journey of faith and graces us with the Holy Spirit and power.
The second reading from 2 Peter 3:8-14 calls us to live out our baptism by conducting ourselves “in holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God . . . . as we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” Psalm 85 reminds us that to walk in the ways of the Lord means to welcome kindness and truth and embrace justice and peace. We hear in verse 14 of Psalm 85 that “Justice shall walk before him, and prepare the way of his steps.” This second week of Advent, may we clear out all obstacles to our journey of faith, making a highway to our God.