Cycle (B) Advent 2nd Sunday

 Is. 40:1-5, 9-11; 2 Pet. 3:8-14; Mk. 1:1-8

Sending envoys to prepare the way for the arrival of a king or a dignitary is not unknown to us. This practice is as old as the establishment of the monarchy. So, it was not unusual when the “King of kings” and the “Lord of lords” came into the world, He sent an envoy to prepare a way for Him: John the Baptist. However, the kind of envoy that was sent was as different and unusual as the kind of King he was supposed to announce.

God already had prepared the way for this envoy some 800 years ago when  prophet Isaiah made this announcement about his coming: A voice is calling, “Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. Let every valley be lifted up and every mountain and hill be made low.”

The arrival of the king demands a drastic change. One of the greatest stories of such a change came out of the mutiny of the Bounty. The mutineers were put ashore on Pitcairn Island.  There were nine mutineers, six native men, ten native women and a girl. A terrible situation ensued. They all died except Alexander Smith. Smith chanced upon a Bible. He read it and he made up his mind to build up a state with the natives of that island based directly on the Bible. It was twenty years before an American ship called at the island. They found a completely Christian community. There was no jail because there was no crime. There was no hospital because there was no disease. There was no asylum because there was no insanity. There was no illiteracy; and nowhere in the world was human life and property so safe.

This is the perfect example of the change demanded by the prophets and announced by John the Baptist. “Level the mountains of your pride and fill the valleys.”

Human pride arises from his ego. Nothing makes a person uglier or more repelling to others - than the human condition of selfishness. Selfishness is ugly, plain and simple. So, where does the human condition of selfishness come from? The human ego (E-G-O = edging God out).

The ego holds us back in life. At times, it disguises itself as our friend and the temporary satisfaction it provides makes us further to seek to satisfy it. It can become a real beast once we let it out of the cage and off the leash.

Our pride of ego makes us believe that we  have our own achievements; that the way we perceive  things are how they actually are – my view is right, others are wrong;  that my efforts cause results; that others should  recognize "my" work; and that I must always win. But we fail to realize the fact the more we want or expect people to recognize, appreciate or be dazzled by how smart we are, the less they listen, even if we do have better ideas. We get so caught up in the everyday mundane chores; we sometimes forget who we really are and who we are meant to be. Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Anger is the enemy of non-violence and pride is a monster that swallows it up.” To receive Jesus into our lives we have to change the attitude of “ego” or “pride” and be simple. Let us look at the lesson the geese give.

As each goose flaps its wings, it creates an "uplift" for the birds following. By flying in a "V" formation the whole flock adds 71% more flying range than if each bird flew alone. Likewise People who share a common goal and have a common direction can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.

John was acceptable to the people because he was a man who lived his message; he was completely humble and he pointed to somebody beyond himself. The words of John the Baptist echoed the words of the great prophet Isaiah, 'Prepare the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight.' After waiting for 700 years, the Jewish people were told that the moment had now arrived. Having done his duty John vanished into the background.

To act like John, we should be free from our ego, and be aware that there is someone watching us.

There was a young boy who came regularly to soccer practice, but never made it to the starting team. While he was practicing, his father would sit at the far end of the field, waiting for him. The matches began and for four days, the body didn’t show up for practice or the quarter or semifinals. He appeared for the final game, went to the coach and said, “Sir, you have always kept me in the reserves and never let me play in the games. But today, please let me play.”

The coach said, “Son, I’m sorry, I can’t let you. There are better players than you, and besides it is the final. I can’t take chance on you.” The boy’s persistent pleading made the coach change his mind and give him a chance. The game started and the boy played like a house on fire. Every time he got the ball, he shot a goal. His team had a spectacular victory.

When the game finished the coach asked him, “I have never seen you play like this before, how did you do so well?”

The boy replied, “My father is watching me today.”

The coach said, “But, your father didn’t come today. I don’t see him.”

The boy told him, “There is something I never told you. My father was blind. He died four days ago. Today is the first day he is watching me from above.”

John reminded the people that there is someone who is watching them from above. Therefore, they have to turn away from evil. In other words, “Fill the valleys” observing the precepts of the Lord. Prophetic teaching and Jewish traditions emphasized on the observance of the law. The Jews had a saying that “If Israel would only keep the law of God perfectly for one day the Kingdom of God would come.”

John’s message demands from us too, to level the mountains of ego, and fill the valleys with the precepts of the Lord that we may start living as God’s true children.