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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Make Crooked Roads Straight

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
Second Sunday of Advent, Dec. 7, 2014
Saints Peter & Paul Parish, Tucson, AZ
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord,  make straight paths for him." (Matt 3:1-3)

A voice cries out! Prepare the way for the Lord! The readings for this Second Sunday of Advent call us to make preparations. 
Today, we hear from the Prophet Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11. He was called to preach about 740 years before the birth of Christ. He lived his ministry during a critical time in Jewish history because Israel and Judah divided into two kingdoms, and both did not have a right relationship with God. Both kingdoms lived in luxury. Many had become rich, and they began to view God as a god indifferent to moral principles. So they  disobeyed the law of the Lord. 
Relationship with God was reduced to prescribed sacrifices. As with other prophets of the Old Testament, Isaiah called the people to repentance of heart. He knew that they were on the verge of self-destruction and needed to turn to God. Yet, they did not listen. So God allowed both kingdoms to suffer at the hands of other nations.
However, in today's readings, we hear that God has a bigger plan. Isaiah proclaims that Jerusalem had suffered enough for its crimes, and God will comfort His people in their  sufferings. But not only that!  Isaiah proclaims a great sign of hope for the future! He proclaims the coming of our savior. He says, “A voice cries out in the desert prepare the way of the LORD! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!”
Isaiah's prophecy is fulfilled in  the ministry of John the Baptist who appears in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance, according to today's Gospel Reading (Mark 1:1-8.)   John the Baptist is the messenger, who prepared the way of our Lord’s first coming. John the Baptist is the last of the prophets before Our Lord’s birth into our world.
Yet today’s readings remind us that our Lord is coming again and that we must prepare! We “must make straight a highway for our God! [For] 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. [It is then] that the glory of the LORD shall be revealed!”
Ever since our Lord was hung on a cross 2000 years ago, we have enjoyed a time of mercy.  “The Lord does not delay [His] promise of [His second coming]." He is patient with us. Our Lord wants to give us time to repent because He does not wish “that any should perish.” (from today's second reading 2 Peter 3:8-14).
Yet, there comes a time when mercy and justice meet. Second Peter reminds us of that accounting when “the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out.”
Fr. John Paul Shea
My brothers and sisters, scriptures teach us that at Our Lord's Second Coming, life on earth is going to radically change. God is going to humble us! But those who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.
We live in a completely different world today than 2000 years ago. Think about it! For the first 1800 years after Our Lord's birth, we did not have electricity. No cars. No airplanes. Life was simple. Now we live in a globalized society with an explosion of technology. We have the internet. We have instant communication, and we can travel anywhere. Yet we are not growing in our relationship with God! In fact, we are creating many dangers. All one has to do is turn on the news to see this.
We live in a very unstable time.  But Our Lord knew about the time in which we would be living today! He knew that immorality, violence and wars would increase
exponentially. He understood the burdens we would place upon ourselves. He knew the corruption of world leaders. He knew that the financial systems would become unstable and  one day fail and collapse. He knew that temptations would increase to the detriment of our souls!  And He therefore knew that the Gospel had to be preached to all nations so that those who listened could be saved.
Our Lord calls us to prepare for His coming! The Israelite nations were given the law, and they failed to follow it. They suffered as a result, but God promised them a savior. We have been given the Gospel, the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ! But as a society, as a nation, and as a world, we are drastically failing to follow God’s laws, and this too will result in unfortunate consequences. 
In this time of upheaval that is coming and is already here, let us pray for a radical conversion of our country and our world. For nothing can save us except a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. John the Baptist calls for us to make straight our paths, especially now when the Lord comes to baptize us with the fire of the Holy Spirit.
May each one of us spiritually prepare for the future that awaits. May each one of us set our hearts on eternal life. For Our Lord Jesus is coming soon!  

"Go up on to a high mountain, cry out at the top of your voice, Jerusalem, herald of good news! Fear not to cry out and say to the cities of Judah: Here is your God! Here comes with power the Lord GOD, who rules by his strong arm; here is his reward with him, 
his recompense before him.

Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care." 
(Isaiah 40:9-11)

Did you enjoy this homily? Fr John Paul Shea has more on this blog: Priestly Celibacy Witnesses to the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

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