‘“Make straight the way of the Lord”’ (Jn 1:23)

Third Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 61:1-2A, 10-11

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the LORD and a day of vindication by our God. I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul; for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice, like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem, like a bride bedecked with her jewels. As the earth brings forth its plants, and a garden makes its growth spring up, so will the Lord GOD make justice and praise spring up before all the nations.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Brothers and sisters: Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil. May the God of peace make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will also accomplish it.

John 1:6-8, 19-28

A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. And this is the testimony of John. When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to him to ask him, "Who are you?" He admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, "I am not the Christ." So they asked him, "What are you then? Are you Elijah?" And he said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" He answered, "No." So they said to him, "Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?" He said: "I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, 'make straight the way of the Lord,'" as Isaiah the prophet said." Some Pharisees were also sent. They asked him, "Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?" John answered them, "I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie." This happened in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

When John the Baptist is asked who he is in this week’s Gospel reading, he replies as the Prophet Isaiah said, that he is to ‘“Make straight the way of the Lord”’ (Gospel reading Jn 1:23). He baptizes with water and proclaims that Jesus is “the one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; … he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Mk 1:8).

What does John’s reply mean to us now, we who were already baptized with water and with the Holy Spirit? Is there a part we can play to make straight the way of the Lord?

The first thing that comes to mind is to live our life in an exemplary way for others to see that we are true Christians. Irrespective of our circumstances, if we live out the Gospel, God may inspire others to join us in walking the way of the Lord.

If we are one of the lucky ones who live in a relatively peaceful country, in an affluent and accommodating society, do well in life, have a good career and a loving family, let us not be lured by the dazzling worldly success to make us think that we are better than others. We are certainly clever, diligent and make good use of the talents that God bestows on us. It is not always easy to remember that our success is part of God’s plan too. We must attribute the success to Him and not ourselves. We must generously share the fruits of our labour especially with those less fortunate. If we are in a position to influence others or sacrifice ourselves for the common good, we must do so with enthusiasm, courage and humility.

If we are sick, poor, elderly, alone, down-trodden or in face of challenges too big to bear, let us remember that all things will past, the tribulation we encounter has meaning and a purpose in God’s plan for us. Let us not think that God has forsaken us and leave us to walk alone in our predicament. Our life is not just about life in this world but also life in the world to come. Let us follow St. Paul’s advice in the second reading that we must “pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ just for you” (1 Th 5:17-18). Sometimes, it is the Christian way of enduring pain and suffering that move others to follow Christ.

In the hope and joy of Advent as we prepare to celebrate the coming of Christ, let us pray for strength and guidance in following John the Baptist’s example to make straight the way of the Lord.

Posted: December 17, 2017

Shiu Lan

Shiu Lan is your Catholic neighbour with a simple faith and likes praying the Rosary. With a B.Sc from the University of Hong Kong, she worked in Information Technology and Project Management before working with joy at home.

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