“Make the path straight”
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way; the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight—”
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And there went out to him all the country of Judea, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, and had a leather girdle around his waist, and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Isaiah had the gift of prophecy and was able to see in a vision the Kingdom of God. He was an amazing prophet, yet the people did not understand him. Looking back at his words and understanding that when He was pointing to Jesus, this may seem clear to us, but hindsight is always 20/20. Saint Mark highlights Isaiah’s prophecy about John the Baptist being the one who will announce Jesus was here. He prophesied about John the Baptist, coming out of the desert crying out, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”
John the Baptist would not have been a handsome man, like the priests of the day. He probably had wild hair and smelled poorly. He lived in the desert and was probably hot and sweaty. He ate strange foods. He wasn’t a fancy Levite priest, calling for holy sacrifice and tithing. All John had to offer was baptism and forgiveness in the Jordan, to prepare the way for Jesus. Today, we have a tendency to focus on the outward appearance of people speaking God’s word. “Isn’t our priest handsome and well spoken?”, “What a beautiful vestment Father is wearing!” or “He really should take better care of himself.” We can get so focused on outward appearances that we sometimes miss the message our priests are proclaiming in their Homilies. Jesus is coming and we must prepare our hearts and minds, and not focus on the outward appearance of those speaking the message.
What made John beautiful was that he preached the truth and people were attracted to him because of the message. It didn’t matter what he looked like, it was what he was saying that pointed to God and the people were hungry for that message. Even though crowds of people were coming to John to be given the baptism of repentance, he also understood that was not enough, the people needed the Messiah. John’s mission was to prepare his people for the coming of the Lord, and not make himself great. He knew he needed to prepare the hearts of the people to immediately follow Jesus. We must pray for our priests, that they are able to preach the Good News, offer forgiveness and point to the one that is coming, Jesus Christ.
Jesus, please move my heart to repentance and bring me to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Have mercy on me and lead me to the Messiah. I ask this in your Holy Name. Amen.