“Make a straight way for the Lord.” In today’s Gospel, John the Baptist quoted Isaiah in reference to his role. His is a baptism of water and repentance, and he acknowledges that repentance is only the first step to our conversion.
“One is coming after me, and I am not fit to undo his sandal strap,” he continued. Jesus’ baptism is the next logical step after the repentance that John urged his followers. It is the acknowledgment that God is in our midst, the Emmanuel. It is also a commitment to love in a manner that goes beyond our human limitations. As this daunting challenge is humanly insurmountable, we are given the Spirit to remain faithful to this commitment.
As we begin a new year, this is a most relevant reminder for all of us. In what ways have we failed to love, as we are called to do so? This could take the form of a bad habit or an ineffective pattern of relating to others. It could also manifest itself in our biases and prejudices against an individual or a group of people. For some of us, it could be in the more subtle thoughts that we harbor against other people. As we acknowledge our sinfulness, whether in small or major ways, we can respond to John and “make a straight way for the Lord.”