The second week of Advent continues the story of John the Baptist. Quoting Isaiah 40:3-5, John cries out in the wilderness:
Prepare the way of the Lord. Make straight his paths . . . The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways smooth. (Luke 3:4-5)
Advent is a time of straightening our paths so that we may walk in the light. As with many of you, journeys and paths, and signs and wonders have been recurring themes on my spiritual journey. I often pray for guidance along my path, but I don’t always pay attention to the signs that God places along the way. God gives us signs to know where to journey, and sent his Word to show us how to travel.
I will lead you in the path you should go. (Isaiah 48:17)
He will prepare your way for you. (Luke 7:27)
From now on, every road you travel will take you to God. Follow the covenant signs. Read the charted directions. (Psalm 25:10)
In thinking about my journey this far, I wonder about all those who have prepared the way for me. Who has led me to this place? For whom am I preparing the way? Am I a John the Baptist for others? As I focus on preparing the way for the birth of Christ in me, I need to be aware of ways I can prepare the way for others. Can I help a friend or neighbor with Christmas shopping, for example? What incredible signs and wonders will I see today? Will I be open to receiving them?
There have been times along the path when I felt paralyzed, that is, unable to move physically, emotionally, academically, socially, or spiritually. At such times, God sent people into my life to rescue me from paralysis. Advent is a good time for me to be grateful for these people and to reflect on what might be paralyzing me from moving ahead on my journey. Overwork? Too many commitments? Too many deadlines? Overwhelming sadness?
Coming in the days of shortest daylight, Advent also resonates with the themes of light and darkness. We put lights in our windows and on our trees and light candles throughout the house. We wait for the source of our light and our salvation.
The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom should I fear? (Psalm 27:1)
He was a bright and shining lamp, and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light . . . but I have testimony greater than John’s [John the Baptist]. (John 5:35-36)
One of my favorite Advent songs is “Light of the World/Luz del Mundo” from Jaime Cortez’s album, Adviento (2006). (You can find a performance by Jaime Cortez on YouTube at v=vciZjNJDYSc.)
Light of the world, hope for us all, come, o come and save us.
Lux del mundo, Emmanuel, ven, oh ven a salvamos.
People of Zion, the Lord will come to save all nations,
and your hearts will exult to hear his majestic voice.
El Señor nos mostrará su misericordia,
y nuestra tierra producirá su fruto.
Rise up, Jerusalem, stand on the heights
And see the joy that is coming to you from God.
Alégrense siempre en el Señor (2)
El Señor, el Señor está cerca.
The readings for the second week of Advent seem to be a prescription of how to journey through life. I need to make plans, take action, and not expect my path to be made straight for me. God is leading, helping me to see the path. I need to look for opportunities to show mercy and justice. How often do our everyday choices make the difference between whether there is dark or light, wellbeing or war?
Two feast days during the second week of Advent help us to mark this special time: Mary’s Immaculate Conception on December 8 and Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12. The first feast day commemorates the doctrine that Mary was born free of original sin and its effects from the first moment of her existence. This special grace was conferred on her through the grace of God in anticipation of the redemption. We hail Mary in faith and prayer because she is “full of grace” and because “the Lord is with her.” In other words, Mary was filled with God well before the Messiah was conceived in her womb.
The second feast day celebrates Mary’s apparition in Guadalupe, Mexico in 1531. Near Tepayac Hill in central Mexico, Juan Diego encountered a beautiful woman surrounded by a ball of light as bright as the sun. Speaking in his native Aztec tongue, the woman identified herself as the Virgin Mary. Within six years of this apparition, six million Aztecs had converted to Catholicism. In Mary’s willingness to hear the prayers of the indigenous peoples, she is recognized as the mother of the poor and the patron saint of the Americas.
The December 2015 issue of National Geographic features Mary: The Most Powerful Woman in the World. The 30-page article focuses on apparitions and devotion to Mary in her many titles around the world. There is an amazing 2-page map of the sightings of Mary (both approved and unconfirmed) since the 16th century. Some are well known, especially among Catholics, for example, Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady of Lourdes; others less known, for example, Our Lady of Good Success (Quito, Ecuador), Mother of the Word (Kibeho, Rwanda). Mary is revered among Muslims, as well. She is the only woman to have her own chapter in the Koran. What is most amazing to me is that this article appears in National Geographic and not in a Catholic magazine.
During this second week of Advent, I ask Mary Queen of Peace to show me how to prepare for the arrival of Light on my spiritual journey. This week I want to Walk in the Light.
W – Walk in the confidence that God is here.
A – Admit light into my life and carry it to others.
L – Light a candle in a place of darkness.
K – Keep the 25th of each month in 2016 as an Advent day of walking in the light.
L – Look for signs and wonders in my life today.
I – Invite someone in a nursing facility to join in singing Christmas carols.
G – Give a message of hope today.
H – Honor Mary as someone who said “yes” to the seemingly impossible.
T – Take up less emotional space by being more humble.