2acHomily for Mass – Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica, Ottawa

Saturday, 8 December 2012 – 4.15pm

Second Sunday of Advent – Year C

(Readings: Baruch 5:1-9; Ps 126; Philippians 1:3-6, 8-11; Lk 3:1-6)


The last parish where I was assigned was a growing parish.  It was still in the process of being subdivided for the houses to be built.  One of the roads I used to drive along frequently was a bit of a ‘goat track’ – winding, up and down hills, through the bushland.  By the time I left the parish, the tops of the hills had been chopped off, the ‘dips’ were filled in, and the trees were gone.  You now drove along a wide, more-or-less straight road.  It was now ideal for all the people that were going to pass along it as the houses were built.

As the transformation of that road took place I used to think of the Advent scripture readings that we’ve just heard.  The prophet Baruch says, For God has ordered that every high mountain and the everlasting hills be made low and the valleys filled up, to make level ground, so that Israel may walk safely in the glory of God.  Saint Luke quotes the prophet Isaiah, Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth.

In the first instance, this leveling of mountains and the making of level grounds looks forward to when God’s people will be led out of captivity to freedom.  It speaks of the time when they will be freed from all that oppresses them, and they’ll walk safely, following the Lord.

In the Psalm, what God has done for his people in the past is remembered, and this gives hope and faith that God will act again, to restore his people.  God’s people will “come home with shouts of joy” along the path that has been made smooth.

Advent is a time of joyful longing.  Not just a wistful optimism, but a longing firmly grounded in what God has already done for his people.  God acted for his people so many times, as recounted in the scriptures.  Above all, God sent the Son into the world.  He has done even what seems impossible: Mary was conceived immaculately, without any stain of original sin;  Mary herself conceived Our Lord by the Holy Spirit while still a virgin;  Our Lord raised from the dead following his passion.  God does the impossible!

As we look at our own lives, what mountains are there that block us?  What rough and treacherous paths are we navigating?  What dark valleys are we stuck in?  It may seem impossible for life to be any different than it now is, but God has done the impossible, and will do it again!  This is our Advent hope.  There are, indeed, valleys to fill, mountains to move, and paths to smooth in our lives, but God can and will do great things for us!

It’s not just ourselves who will walk on these smooth paths created after laying low mountains and filling in valleys.  As Saint Luke says, we are to prepare the way for the Lord.  This recalls that we co-operate with what God will do.  God is gracious in that he doesn’t force us, he doesn’t overpower our own will.  He waits for us to open the door.  And then in mercy and tenderness he does the amazing.

The first step in God doing what seems impossible in our lives is for us to desire it!  Before we speak a word, or do anything, our holy desires are themselves beautiful, pure prayers.  Next we need to ask God to do the impossible.  And then, we need to do something to open the door to God.  We have the saying, “give someone an inch and they’ll take a mile.”  In a positive way this applies to the Lord, give Him a bit, give Him an opening, and he’ll do more than we could even imagine.

The Lord wants to come and make his home among us.  Just as he came and “pitched his tent among us” in the Incarnation, the Lord wants to dwell in our hearts.  He wants all flesh [to] see [His] salvation – to know his healing, grace and peace.

May Advent hope inflame the desire of our heart to long for the Lord to come, to fill the valleys of darkness in our lives, to move mountains that block us from life, and to make smooth the rough, lonely and treacherous paths we walk.

Come Lord Jesus!  May we hear the glory of your voice in the joy of our hearts.