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Prepare the Way of the Lord: Repent!
December 10th Readings Reflection: Saturday of the Second Week of Advent
As they were coming down from the mountain,
the disciples asked Jesus,
“Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”
He said in reply, “Elijah will indeed come and restore all things;
but I tell you that Elijah has already come,
and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased.
So also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands.”
Then the disciples understood
that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus speaks of St. John the Baptist, who was sent to prepare the way of the Lord. John’s message was one of repentance, “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt 3:2 DRB). The Fathers of the Church wrote that this repentance must be twofold: amendment of our lives and atoning for our past sins through penitential acts, such as fasting.
John called the Pharisees and Sadducees who went to see him a “brood of vipers,” foreshadowing Jesus’ own condemnations of these hypocritical Jewish leaders. They sought John’s baptism, but they lacked true interior repentance; they had no intention of changing their ways, but merely to appear holy and worthy of salvation to those around them. The Jews failed to recognize in John the fulfillment of the prophecies concerning Elijah, so they consequently failed to prepare their hearts to be able to recognize the Messiah when He came.
Advent is a season of preparing our hearts for the coming of Christ at Christmas, which is just a couple weeks away now. The Church observes Advent as a time of penitential preparation, with no flowers adorning the altars and no Gloria being sung at Mass. This is meant to lead us to the twofold repentance of which St. John the Baptist spoke: penance for our sins and an interior change of our lives.
A couple weeks ago, I wrote about Advent penances; like Lent, Advent is an opportunity for us to discover and root out whatever it is in our lives that separates us from God. Tomorrow is Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent. Christmas is quickly approaching, but we still have time to prepare our hearts for Christ’s Birth. May we use these next two weeks to repent and prepare our hearts, so that we can joyfully welcome Our Lord when He comes.