+Advent is a time for us to hear the call – ultimately which comes from Jesus – to prepare his way. We are sent before him to the non-geographical places where the good news of Jesus hasn’t been heard or where it is no longer accepted.   We become those who prepare the way for faith, through our core relationships and in our families, when we witness our faith in Jesus. Perfectionism, harshness, judgments, the pointing finger never brought anyone closer to Jesus. Yet, this is too often what “being religious” looks like to others. Our role in preparing the way for Jesus is to announce, to witness, to show how full of joy and how free we are by the personal relationship we have with Jesus. It is the exact opposite of being “self-righteous” or “impatient.” We “proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes” when we look and act like loved sinners. When we know we are forgiven and saved by God’s mercy in Jesus, we are not only free from our own self-centeredness, but we become courageous in loving as we have been loved. We become compassionate. We have the heart of Jesus for others. We are the people who keep the door open, even when it seems there is no hope that someone will return. We become more merciful. We hear the cries of those in need and we reach out and stand on the side of those in need.

+Like John, we don’t call attention to ourselves. We point the way to Jesus. We say, “Look, there he is.” “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” When we point the way to Jesus, who is mercy, we become ambassadors of his mercy. One of the most effective ways we can do this is to let ourselves not only be filled with the good news, personally, but to let ourselves fall in love with Jesus – to fall in love with his story, his example, his way of being, his trust in the Father, his parables, his healing presence. Everything about Jesus becomes more and more attractive to us. We come to him and learn from him. Our very being “proclaims the greatness of our God.”

+As we live the life of Jesus in our world, we will experience immediately how counter-cultural it is. It is very difficult to be non-judgmental and compassionate in a very harsh world, in a sometimes very severe community. Living the life of Jesus, speaking truth to those who sustain injustice, will cost us. John the Baptist found himself in jail, unsure of his survival, for speaking out about Herod’s life style.

+During Advent, we can ask for the grace to become a John the Baptist, in whatever way the Lord wants to use us to open a door for him today. The opportunities will come. We can simply ask to be opened to see them – to recognize them – and to be given the courage and the trust to be an instrument of grace for others. We can give that special content to the prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus, Come.”