This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,
‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.” (Matthew 3:3. NRSV).
About twenty years ago I was visiting with my spiritual director. I was at the beginning of my vocation discernment. I was excited, scared and anxious about where God might be leading me. During the session, I said to my spiritual director “I know that God’s grace will be there when I find whatever it is that God has for me.” My spiritual director looked at me with some concern and said, “God’s grace is in the here and now. If you do not learn to look for God’s grace right here where God has you, you will not know God’s grace in what is yet to happen.”
The figure of St. John the Baptist is mind boggling. Yet, for contemplatives he is just the kind of example we can look to. When the Desert Mothers and Fathers began to create their communities in Egypt, they took the model of St. John the Baptist and made much of it a very important part of their monastic way of life.
St. John the Baptist recognized his role as the one to prepare the way by calling the people of his time to repentance. We too are prophets who are called to prepare the way for Jesus to come into our lives in the here and now, so that we may respond to God’s grace with joy and obedience. We are not told to prepare the way for tomorrow, or even at the celebration of the Nativity. We are told to prepare the way now with what is before us at this moment.
As contemplatives, our time in silent prayer is about opening ourselves up to what God is doing in our ordinary lives. As we listen, we are preparing the way for Christ to speak to our hearts so that we may cultivate the life of Jesus and make His way our way of life. We are invited to read and meditate on the Word, and to pray that we may grow closer in relationship with God so as to be drawn into God’s presence in the here and now. It is God in us that prepares the way so that we can also prepare the way of the Lord in our relationships, our work, our families and communities.
How are you preparing the way of the Lord this Advent?
Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB