John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said: "A voice of one crying out in the desert, 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths." John wore clothing made of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan, as they acknowledged their sins. When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones. Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."
Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus, you know all things and you govern the world with love. I believe in you. You don't rule with a heavy hand, but instead you guide us gently towards you. I trust in your mercy and I know you are leading me home to heaven day by day. You can only desire what is good for me. Thank you. You give me the courage to say I love you, though I know my love is so weak. I wish to make more room for you in my life, putting you above all else.
Petition: Lord, give me an insatiable thirst for you and then quench that thirst with your close presence in my life.
A Message Coming from the Desert: John the Baptist went to the desert in order to be closer to God. The Israelites learned to depend on God while in the desert. He gave them manna and quail to nourish them in their hunger and sent forth water from a rock to quench their thirst. In the desert, John the Baptist learned to depend on God, and through him the cry would again resound to repent and make straight the paths to God. The four hundred year silence is broken as God makes known that his kingdom is at hand. Oftentimes, there are moments in our lives that seem like a desert, but it is in these moments that God brings us closer to him. We should not be afraid of experiencing dryness or difficulties in prayer because it is then when God helps us to seek him more ardently and trust more in him.
Prepare the Way of the Lord: John the Baptist inspired numerous conversions because of his powerful spiritual lifestyle. As part of his desert practice to achieve a closer union with God, he spent countless hours in prayer with God, ate a meager diet and dressed in coarse clothing. People listened to him because his entire way of life spoke to them about God. John's baptism helped wash away their old attitudes and ways of thinking. By requesting his baptism they showed their decision to let God in and purify their hearts. I must not forget that this Advent is a time to make room for Christ to enter into my heart. I need him to be a real part of my life. I have to let go of the old way of thinking and acting and put on Christ in a real and visible way. Does my entire lifestyle reflect God's presence to others? Is prayer and union with God a priority in my life?
Producing Good Fruit Is Evidence of Repentance: Through baptism, we are committed to pursuing holiness and seeking to be more Christ-like each day. He wishes us to collaborate actively with him in his redemptive mission, contributing our efforts to announce and extend his Kingdom here on earth. St Luke says, speaking of the first members of the Church who were scattered on account of persecution, "Those who had dispersed went about everywhere announcing the Good News of the Word" (Acts 8:4). It is my task to preach and extend the Kingdom of Christ where I am. My basic apostolic task is to bear witness to Christ by practicing the values, ideals and virtues of the Gospel. How do I witness at home, to my spouse, to my children, in my work and in my parish? Do I appreciate that my example speaks volumes? I need to feel the urgency of fulfilling the mission that Christ has given me in my particular state in life. When I receive Holy Communion, I receive the food I need to help me in my mission.
Dialogue with Christ: Lord, you chose to become like me in order to bring me closer to you. Help me to continue to grow in a prayerful spirit, and unite me with you so that at the end of my life I can enjoy your presence, not just under the veil of the Eucharist, but in person. Lord, help me to embrace a way of life which is in consonance with my drawing nearer to you each day. So many worries, so many needless matters, Lord, distract me from seeking a closer friendship with you. Help me to put things in their proper perspective and value what matters to you alone. Lord, reveal yourself to me.
Resolution: Today, on my way to or from Mass, I will consider what I need to add or subtract from my life so that others can benefit from a better example of Christ in me.