Advent Journal: Day 8

sermon of st. john the-baptist_bruegel the elder

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.   -Isaiah 40:10-11

Since everything is to be dissolved in this way,
what sort of persons ought you to be,
conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion,
waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God,
because of which the heavens will be dissolved in flames
and the elements melted by fire.
But according to his promise
we await new heavens and a new earth
in which righteousness dwells.
Therefore, beloved, since you await these things,
be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.   2 Peter 3:8-14

“One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”   Gospel of Mark 1:7-8

In the Scripture passages for today, the Gospel of Mark cites the prophet Isaiah, saying “make straight the paths of the Lord,” present John the Baptist as the one who proclaims the way of the Lord prophesied by Isaiah.  Years ago, I recall a pastor in a homily mention that it was a practice of ancient Near Eastern emperors to clear a highway before them as they entered a territory they had conquered.  Presumably, the ancient Israelites had a very direct experience of this:  both the Assyrians and the Babylonians carried them off into exile.  Thus, the image is one that depicts God as a triumphant king, perhaps an echo of how he was sometimes depicted in the more ancient Psalms, redolent of an ancient Canaanite war god.  But here, though violence is hinted at in St. Peter’s letter, is no promise of destruction, but renewal: renewal by baptism of the Holy Spirit, and transformation of a sinful world into a “new heaven and a new earth” where righteousness dwells, “where justice and peace shall kiss.”  The paths that the Lord makes straight runs through our minds, through our bodies, through our souls; we must make way, for the King is coming, or else he will level the mountains of our hearts, the monuments to our own righteousness that we build up every day in our selves.  Make way!  Make way for Him who will raise you up to a higher place than your own weak spirit ever could.  Make straight your path; let it lead you to Christ, to his everlasting love.  Deny Him nothing, since he gave you everything.  Let his justice purge you with the fires of repentance; accept the suffering that is yours, that on the day of judgement, when having burned away the last remnant of the old man, you may be able to see Him face, and weep for joy that you are at long last reunited with your heavenly Father.  For then, when his glory shall be revealed, there will be no more sorrow, no more suffering, and all paths will be made straight and will lead us evermore into his Love.

~ by Alypius on December 11, 2017.

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