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 7 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).
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).
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me-the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace (Acts 20:24).
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7).
I am sure you have all heard that during the Advent Season, 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. 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, for the One who wants to fill us with his Holy Spirit. He wants to empower us to overcome sin, to love one another as he loves us (John 13:34), and to live in unity, as he and the Father are one (John 17:21). What wouldn’t we do to get ready for that?
We are now in the Third Week of Advent, so what steps can you take 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 (Acts 20:24, 2 Timothy 4:7). 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 that we can share God’s love with those in darkness, care for the needy, and build a more just world. And from the dawn of time, everyone who has taken such steps has felt the touch of the Spirit impacting their life.
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! “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 finish well this Advent journey and your call for my life.”
[Many thanks to The Word Among Us for allowing us to adapt material from daily meditations in their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.]
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
- 1. 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?
- 2. 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?
- 3. When St. Paul speaks of his life, he uses words like; “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me” (Acts 20:24), “Run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24), “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). What importance would you give to how you want these words to apply to your own life?
- 4. We are now in the Third Week of Advent. What steps can you take 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?
- 5.If you are in a men’s group, take some time at the end of your meeting to pray for one another that Jesus would come into your lives this Advent in a deeper way. Use the prayer at the end of the article as the starting point.