Straightening What is Bent

Editor’s Note: Reflection on the Mass readings for the 2nd Sunday of Advent (Year B) – Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11; Psalms 85:9-10, 11-12, 13-14; Second Peter 3:8-14; Mark 1:1-8; This series appears each Wednesday.

Photography © by Andy Coan

Advent is a time of joyful anticipation.  For someone even bigger than Santa Claus is coming to town.

The human race has been waiting a long time for his next and final visit.  Actually, it waited a long time for the first visit.  Things had gone awry quite early in the history of the human race.  We went from Paradise to misery in the blink of an eye, but found there was no way to get back into the garden.  Only God could turn things around, but he was a long time coming.  There had to be some groundwork laid first – a slow, gradual preparation of the human race to get it ready for the historic encounter with its Savior.  There were some ideas about God and his plan that had to be gotten across to the people.  Moses was entrusted with the lion share of that job.  But besides this doctrinal, intellectual preparation, there had to be spiritual and moral preparation as well.  Calling the people of God to repentance and holiness was the specialty of the prophets, and given the magnitude of their job, there were many of them.

General George Patton once said of his soldiers “every young man needs a good pat on the back from time to time – sometimes high and sometimes low.”  Israel was young, and God spoke to them both stern and comforting words through the prophets.  Isaiah 40, for example, begins with comfort.  It proclaims that captivity is over, that God is coming to the rescue, coming with power as a shepherd to feed his flock.

Yet is goes on to say that a road in the desert must be prepared for this coming.  Valleys must be filled in.  Mountains must be leveled.  Crooked ways made straight.  This is a massive undertaking, to tell the truth.

Actually, it would be easier if all we had to do was literally dynamite some mountainside.  But the last and greatest of the prophets, John the Baptist, helps us understand the true meaning of Isaiah’s words.  The prep work needs to be done in us, not in sand and gravel.

For the Messiah, the good shepherd to come, the way must be leveled and straightened.  The heights blocking his approach were mountains of pride.  The sin of pride exalts itself higher than God, erecting a barrier against him.  It is characterized by know-it-all-ness and smug self-sufficiency.  The tower of Babel is a great example of pride’s futile loftiness.  But how about the valleys that must be filled in?  Philosophers and theologians define evil is as the privation of good, the lack of something that ought to be there.  Lack of faith is a sin.  Lack of prayerfulness is a sin.  Lack of charity is a sin.  These are all sins of omission, and these gaping holes need to be filled in to make a highway for our God.

In his fabulous space trilogy, CS Lewis calls Satan “the Bent One.”  Because the nature of the deceiver is to take great blessings from God and twist them, misdirect them, so that they become curses.  With a little twist, abundance becomes greed, marital love becomes lust, and piety becomes self-righteous hypocrisy.  In Advent, these crooked ways must be made straight.

The last of the prophets, John the Baptist, lived his message.  The mountains of pride had been leveled in him, the way cleared.  He pointed not to himself, but to him whose sandal strap, he says, he is not fit to untie.  He was as excited as anyone about Him who was to come.  For John knew what He was bringing.  “I have baptized you in water; He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit.”  The messiah was coming to utterly immerse us in the power and wisdom of God in order to make us new people, able to be like God, able to do new and great things.

This is, without a doubt, worth preparing for.


Acknowledgement

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources or info on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

This article originally appeared in Our Sunday Visitor and is reproduced here by permission of the author.

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About the Author

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

Raised in Italian/Irish neighborhood in Providence, RI, Marcellino D’Ambrosio never thought about being anything else but Catholic. But like other Catholic teens, his faith was the last place he looked for fulfillment. Following in the footsteps of his parents, both professional performers in their single years, Marcellino set his sights on stardom, playing bass guitar in several popular rock bands by the time he was 16. At that time he encountered a group of Catholics whose Christian life was an exciting adventure, an adventure worth living for. So he laid his bass guitar aside and embarked on a road that led to a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Catholic University of America. His doctoral dissertation, written under the direction of the renowned Jesuit theologian, Avery Cardinal Dulles, focused on one of the theological lights of the Second Vatican Council, Henri Cardinal de Lubac, and his recovery of biblical interpretation of the early Church fathers.

His writing has been published in the international journal Communio, Abingdon’s Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, the Tablet, Catholic Digest, Our Sunday Visitor, and Catholic News Service’s syndicated column "Faith Alive." His popular book, Exploring the Catholic Church and video course by the same name (known as Touching Jesus through the Church in the USA) have been used in hundreds of parishes all throughout the English speaking world. The Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions about the Passion of the Christ, of which he is co-author and co-editor, may prove to be the fastest-selling Catholic book of all time with over a million copies sold in less than three months.

Dr. D’Ambrosio, the father of five and a business owner, brings to his teaching a practical, down-to-earth perspective that makes his words easy to understand and put into practice. Audio and video recordings of his popular teaching are internationally distributed. He often appears on the international Eternal Word Television Network is regularly heard on the nationally syndicated radio show "Catholic Answers Live." Dr. D'Ambrosio has been a guest on Geraldo Rivera, At Large on FoxNews Channel, the Bill O'Reilly radio show and Radio America's news program Dateline: Washington.

In 2001 Dr. D’Ambrosio left his position at the University of Dallas to develop the work of Crossroads Productions, the apostolate of Catholic renewal and evangelization that he co-founded twenty years ago, and to more directly oversee the growth of Wellness Opportunities Group a company dedicated to helping people improve the quality of their lives physically, mentally, and financially. He, his wife Susan, and their five children, reside just outside of San Antonio, TX.

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