The answer is – into our HEARTS … into the very deepest core of our being.
Advent is derived from the latin word meaning “coming” or “arrival”. Advent is the time of preparation for the Lord’s coming.
Church tradition teaches us there are three comings of the Lord – we will celebrate His first coming as the Word made flesh – becoming as we say in our creed “Incarnate of the Virgin Mary”. What would we be without God assuming our human nature and thus raising and divinizing us? How could there be real contact and intimacy with God had the Incarnation not occurred?
Another coming of Christ will be at the end of the world. Jesus says in the Gospels that he will come again in glory on the clouds of heaven to judge the living and the dead, as we say in our creed. This coming can be a little frightening – as Peter says in the second reading: “the day of the Lord will come like a thief…and that the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire...” and he exhorts that we “all should come to repentance” and we should “be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.”
But there is another, third coming of Christ – between His first and final comings… And it is the laser focus of each of our three readings: making straight the path of the Lord … into our hearts… into our very souls… into our daily lives! What is this middle coming? It is the mission and objective, the goal of Christ’s Incarnation … that we be utterly transformed by His coming, to share His divine life of love … rushing out from the Trinitarian love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit … into the cave of Bethlehem so He might dwell in the stable of our souls.
How does Jesus make His advent to our souls? Firstly, through the sacramental life – beginning with baptism, where we become adopted sons and daughters of the Most High. Through grace, His very life in our souls, we are divinized and made capable of experiencing eternal life begun here and now in a transforming relationship of love with God and therefore – with one another.
In Holy Eucharist – Jesus comes to us in the reality of His body, blood, soul and divinity, so that he might dwell in us and nourish us with His Gospel Word and Real Presence. The result is nothing less than the divine indwelling in our soul of Jesus, Emmanuel (God with us).
So, Jesus’ middle way of coming, between the first and final comings, is an abiding invitation and presence every moment … in the present moment … Hence, the challenge is for us to …
…“make straight” and “prepare the way of the Lord!” How do we do this? Peter tells us – “he is patient with you, not wishing any should perish but that al should come to repentance.”
This is what Advent is all about – it is symbolized by the purple liturgical colors – repentance requires a turning away from attachments and sins, especially habitual sins that involve impurity (number one struggle of men – just actively addressing this will transform your ability to love and engage God intimately), lack of self-control, self-centered thinking and behavior, negative talk about others, focusing on material goods ahead of spiritual goods (especially this season), slothfulness/laziness in living our spiritual lives – especially not fostering the habit of daily prayer, sins of omission where we fail to act when we should in our daily duties or missed opportunities to be of service or encouragement to others.
So many in our culture and in our world live lives almost totally on the material level, according to worldly standards of evaluating life and what we do – St Peter reminds us today these will all DISSOLVE … so … he asks very concretely – “what sort of person ought you to be”?
Our Lord comes to us in the sacrament of reconciliation to heal us of these and any other sinful attachments, which prevent and hinder us – they block the Lord’s “way” into our souls! Advent is a time for prayer and acts of detachment, resistance to sin by turning to God and service of others, in order to overcome sinful habits that have become so engrained in us we almost imagine they are unchangeable.
We cannot do this ourselves, so Jesus abides with us and is coming to you RIGHT NOW in the present moment in His sacraments …In the grace experienced through prayer and the service and actions that flow from His presence within us.
So many do not experience Christmas joy because they do not “prepare the way of the Lord or make straight His path” into their hearts. Jesus is asking each of us: “are you making that good will effort?” God comes in humility – He forces Himself on no one because LOVE is incompatible with coercion. Rather, he invites each of us to personal self-examination and repentance so we will be properly disposed to receive His Advent – His coming into our souls.
The result … if we simply make the effort to repent and we struggle to do His Will by listening to His Word and acting on it today … is described in the last line of our Gospel today – “he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Then the realization of His coming to our souls will be not just an idea, philosophy of life, ideology or even an ideal … but an experience lived, a Person loved – and Then we will not just “know OF Christ” but we will “know Christ” as our most intimate friend, the Mighty God and Prince of Peace, who descended to us in humility.
Come, Lord Jesus!