Second Sunday of Advent 12/9/12
Filling in valleys.
Preparing a way.
Straightening - what is now winding.
All images from the building of roads.
Long ago, when kings traveled to far-off places the first
thing that was done was prepare the roads.
A messenger was sent ahead to tell the people to clear the
roads so that the king could easily make his way.
Sometime roads were built to conquer another nation as well.
I got a little sense of this on a trip to England a few years
ago, I was with a good English friend who really
knows history. We were in a small village out in the country,
looking down over a valley, and in that valley we
could see a road - stretching for miles. It was actually the
road we were on. The Romans built the road - 2,000
Their purpose for building the road was to conquer the
The ancient villagers had to patiently endure the road
construction which they could watch as they looked down
into the valley. You can imagine the fear of standing on a
hilltop and seeing your destruction move toward you,
ever so slowly.
The Romans worked methodically - to get the road right.
They were such an efficient road-building
organization and their army so vast, they could quickly clear
the trees and the brush, remove any rocks that
stood in the way, and put down a new surface of
cut-and-dressed stone in such a way that it would last for
A good Roman division could do more than a thousand
paces in an hour, which is an incredible distance when
you consider that a pace was about 3 feet. They called a
thousand paces a 'mille' - and their progress 'milles
per hour' from which we get: 'miles per hour.'
St. Luke was very smart. He used this background to tell us
that John the Baptist was the messenger of a new kind of
"Prepare the way of the Lord. Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain made low...So that all shall see the salvation
John proclaimed the words to help us prepare the roads of
our hearts. "The King is coming. Make a road for him."
The words to help us understand that the best way to
prepare for the coming of the King - at Christmas - is to
make a straight road for him - into our hearts.
Actually, it's a two-way street. By sending his Son, God is
building a superhighway into our hearts.
But we have to level whatever obstacles - whatever sin -
might block his coming.
And that's the best way to prepare for Christmas.
First, seeking forgiveness. And then, giving forgiveness.
This is the road to the King.
It's interesting that our Gospel today mentions 8 people by
name. That's rare. Of these 8, one alone speaks of
forgiveness. The other 7 are all responsible for the death of
It's interesting that in Advent, as we prepare for the greatest
of births, we should already hear of 7 men involved
in the greatest of deaths. But it's no accident.
Already, the Lord's birth is linked to his death.
St. Leo the Great once said, "Jesus Christ was born to die
on the cross." The whole purpose of his birth hinges
on his death...for the forgiveness of sin.
7 men inspire fear.
Tiberius Caesar, the emperor - Pontius Pilate, his procurator
- 3 appointed petty kings: Herod, Philip and
Lysanias - and two high priests, Annas and Caiaphas. All
were involved in the conspiracy against Christ the
Yet, in their midst, the word of God came to John in the
desert - to light our road and give us hope.
In calling us to level the mountains and valleys, John
provides a clear and sure way to join Jesus on the Way to
Calvary - through repentance - by putting our sin behind us -
by seeking God's forgiveness.
Jesus' whole mission was centered on the forgiveness of
sin. On whatever road he traveled in life he
demonstrated its power.
The very center of our prayer life is: "Forgive us our
trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."
And, Jesus' last request before his death must become our
badge: "Father, forgive them for they know not
what they do."
In life, we're on the right road - when we seek His
forgiveness for our sins.
We're on the right road each time we forgive our brother or
sister from our heart.