Editor’s Note: The following is the first installment of a new series at Catholic Exchange, “Brothers In Christ”, which will serve as a way for Catholic men to study and reflect on the faith. This week’s installment is by longtime CE contributor, Maurice Blumberg.
He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him. But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name,…” (John 1:10-12)
The word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert. He went throughout (the) whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” (Luke 3:2-6)
Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah. John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people. (Luke 3:15-18)
I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. (John 17:20-21)
The Love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given us. (Romans 5:5)
I am sure you have all heard that during Advent we celebrate three “comings” of Jesus Christ. His first coming was as a baby at Christmas – the Messiah, Emmanuel, God with us. God has come to help and save his people. Let us rejoice and give thanks for this first coming! We also celebrate the “Second Coming” during Advent, when Jesus will come in glory at the end of history. He will restore all things and gather all his people together forever. The third coming we celebrate is the coming of Jesus into our hearts as Lord and Savior, to make us beloved sons of his Father. St. John’s Gospel puts it this way, “those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name” (John 1:12). Jesus wants to come into our hearts and minds each day, through the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.
If someone very important were coming to visit, you’d be sure to clean up, right? That’s exactly what John the Baptist called the Israelites to do in preparation for the first coming of Jesus. He called for every “valley” of sin to be filled in and every “mountain” of pride to be pulled down (Luke 3:6). Just as John the Baptist’s preaching 2000 years ago resulted in many people repenting and accepting John’s baptism (readying themselves for the Messiah), so Advent is the perfect season for us to do the same.
Jesus, our Messiah, is coming, and we should get ready! But we should also remember that we are preparing not for a stern judge but for a merciful Savior and for the One who wants to fill us with his Holy Spirit (Luke 3:16). He wants to empower us to overcome sin, to love one another as he loves us (John 13:34), to live in unity, as he and the Father are one (John 17:21), and be filled with the love of God (Romans 5:5). What wouldn’t we do to get ready for that?
We are now in the first week of Advent, so what steps can you take to celebrate well this Advent Season of grace? Let’s start with any obstacles in your life, valleys of sin that need to be filled in, or mountains of pride that need to be leveled. Don’t let them remain! Get to Confession this Advent and lay your sins at the feet of the Lord. As you do, you’ll experience his forgiveness, and you’ll be giving the Holy Spirit a greater opportunity to release his power and peace in your life.
But don’t stop with repentance. John the Baptist urged his people to turn away from sin and to turn toward righteousness. He told them (and us) that Jesus wants to baptize us with his Holy Spirit. So ask Jesus for a fresh infilling of his Holy Spirit and the power to be the man of God he has called you to be. From the dawn of time, prophets like John have called us to move out of our comfort zones. So this Advent, look for opportunities to share God’s love with those in darkness, to care for those who are needy, and to reach out to those who are hurting. And from the dawn of time, everyone who has taken such steps has also felt the touch of the Spirit impacting their lives.
Jesus came to give us his very life, his very own Spirit. So what are we waiting for? Jesus is coming. Let’s all get ready to receive Him! “Come Lord Jesus …. O Come Emmanuel!”
“Lord Jesus, come into my life in a deeper way than you have ever done before. Prepare my mind and heart for your Second Coming. Holy Spirit, fill me afresh with your cleansing fire to heal and free me, and to make this Advent a time of deep renewal. I want to celebrate well this Advent journey and your call for my life.”
Many thanks to The Word Among Us (www.wau.org) for allowing me to adapt meditations in their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
- Take a few minutes to read and meditate on the Scriptures above. What do you think God is trying to say to you through them?
- The article says that Advent is a season of grace, a time when we allow in a deeper way for Jesus “to come into our hearts and minds each day, through the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.” What steps are you taking during Advent to allow this to happen?
- The article also speaks of “valleys of sin that need to be filled in, or mountains of pride that need to be leveled.” How would you describe these “mountains” and “valleys” in your life?
- The article describes some steps we can take during Advent. What steps are you willing to take to prepare for the “coming” of Christ?
- Take some time now to pray that Jesus would come into your life this Advent in a deeper way. Also pray for the grace to finish well this Advent Season of grace, or as St. Paul says it, to “finish the race” that the Lord has given each of us to complete? Use the prayer at the end of the article as the starting point.