“Now in those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ For 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 3:1-3).
If we go to Luke (3:5-6), the prophet Isaiah is quoted as saying:
“Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low. And what is crooked shall be made straight. And the rough paths shall be made into level ways. And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
In my youth, when I heard this Scripture passage, I pondered its meaning and was very one-dimensional in what it meant to me: Repent of your sins and be saved. In later years, as I meditated a bit more deeply on the passage, I came to realize it can mean so many things, including that John the Baptist was speaking to me, and how I love my neighbor.
The Picture Becomes Clear As You Journey Through Life
Anyone who has lived life for as few as 12 years, knows about life’s ups and downs: its joys and sorrows, elation and depression, boredom and excitement. Oftentimes, we can experience more than one of these emotions all in the span of one day. Because of our focus on our own life experiences and distractions, we tended to simply ignore, or not notice, what others were experiencing.
As we mature, we begin to discover that there are others around us whose feelings and emotions matter to us-we grow to master our own emotionality. We become more sensitive to how others whom we love and care about are doing, day to day.
Then we grow some more, and hopefully, begin to look beyond our immediate circle of family and close friends, and start to notice random strangers, whom we see climbing the hills and valleys, the sunlit meadows, and the dark ravines, of life. They, like us, are on the path to salvation—the path to God.
Our hearts truly begin to grow, because our neighborhood has expanded from our home to our street, to our subdivision, to the world. We come to realize that WE are the ones who are to be the people who are to help those less fortunate, or who are poor in spirit, or whose paths are blocked with barriers and obstacles, and make THEIR ways smooth; level the mountains that stand in THEIR paths.
We can find these people as near as the grocery store, or as far away as the Philippines, meeting those who are seeking truth in their own ways, and on their own roads. If we are perceptive, we can tell if someone is walking barefoot on a road made of sharp stones, or if a person is not on the right path, or if life seems to another person to be a “walk in the park”.
Connecting The Dots
What does all of this have to do with John the Baptist, or Advent? The Baptist was calling his listeners to search the wilderness of their hearts and souls for anything that was making the road more difficult—for ourselves, as well as for others. Whatever those things were, we needed to identify, and repent of, seeking forgiveness.
If we examine our actions on a given day, we can focus on interactions with our neighbors. How would you describe those interactions?
- Were they kind, gentle, loving, and welcoming, or were they more worthy of someone with the attitude of Mr. Scrooge on a bad day?
- Were you helping someone get off the rocky, difficult path, or pushing them down the stony mountain?
- Were you helping someone who has fallen, to get up and continue walking?
- Were your words more akin to stuffing their backpacks with bricks and rocks, instead of lightening their load by taking their heavy backpack?
It is in this work that we find ourselves and, ultimately, God. It is this very work that keeps us on the path to God Himself.
In this beautiful Season of Advent, we are called to go into our own “wildernesses”, and to find those things that we do that keep us from being another Christ to others. Find those areas where we could show greater love and kindness to our neighbors, wherever we see them, and however distant they may be found. Look at others through the eyes of Jesus, then love them accordingly.
And when you have begun to do this, you can approach the Baby Jesus in the manger on Christmas Day!
Victor Negrón is a husband, father, grandfather, practicing lawyer, former judge, past-President of the San Antonio Catholic Lawyers Guild, lay evangelist, Board Member of Pilgrim Center of Hope and A Woman’s Haven. Judge Negrón became Board Certified in Family Law in 1987. As a lay evangelist, Victor has served as a leader for Eucharistic Adoration of San Antonio, Inc., and has been involved with Pilgrim Center of Hope’s evangelizing activities since its early years – formerly as emcee for the Catholic Men’s Conference, and currently as a member of the PCH Board of Directors.
Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.