I remember seeing a movie in the 1990s with the title “the hard way and the only way. The action comedy tells the story of a wannabe cop who achieves his ambition through the most painful and dramatic manner. Life is full of WAYS. There are right WAYS and wrong WAYS. The word of God tells us that there is a way that seems right but the end of it is destruction (Prov.14:12). The way you follow determines your destination. A way could mean a disposition, an approach and even an attitude towards a goal.
If we go through the scriptures very attentively, we will discover that the entire history of humanity with God is about WAYS. God shows us the right ways, but we often fail to follow. Most divine encounters in the Bible were on the way. Abraham met God on the way (Gen.12:7-8; 18:1-3). While on the way with his father-in-law’s flock Moses meets God at the burning bush (Exo. 3:1-5). And God also made way for him and the people of Israel through the red sea (Exo.14:21-22). God always invites His people to follow his ways. In the book of Psalms (62:7) David prays that God’s way be known on the earth, His salvation among all nations and Isaiah tells us that God’s ways are different from our ways (Isaiah 55:8).
If we turn to our Lord Jesus Christ, we will discover that more than 80% of his ministry took place on the way. He called almost all the apostle on the way, and many people followed him on the way (John 6:2). Most of the preaching were on the way, and he cured and healed most people on the way. We can recall Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52) the woman with the issue of blood (Luke 8:42b-48), the ten lepers (Luke 19:11-17), Zacchaeus’ conversion was on the way (19:1-10). The way also led him triumphantly to Jerusalem he carried the cross and suffered along the way that led to Calvary. After his resurrection, he appeared to two of his disciples along the way (Luke 24:13-35).
In the apostolic time, the Way became a formal description for Christians (Acts 22:4). Peter’s first miracle was on the way (Acts 3:1-3) and Saul who later became Paul got his conversion on the way (Acts 9:1-19).
The First Reading (Isaiah 11:1-10) begins with the announcement of the rare shoot that shall come from the stump of Jesse. The opening statement is a direct indication of the inauguration of a new way. We understand this further in the reading where the Prophet says that:
His delight shall be in fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth.
A deeper and more critical look at this shows that the one who is coming will operate in a new way. He will not be like the rulers of this world who do not fear God. His judgment will not leverage on sight or hearsay but righteousness. Unlike the way of the world that is unjust to the poor, the new way will provide a judgment for the poor.
The Advent period inaugurates another way for us; the way of repentance which the Gospel Reading (Matt. 3:1-12) tells us today. The way of repentance often seems to be the hard way, but it remains the only way if our journey to God must give us an eternal reward.
The call to the way of repentance is not an instruction many of us would like to get. We are often more concerned about the gains and pleasures of the flesh to the achievements of our souls. Often we prefer to postpone our repentance to an indefinite later date and most people end up not reconciling with God before they exit the world.
The instruction of John the Baptist is clear, “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.” Many of us may have heard this right from our childhood, and it could sound like “one of those things we already know.” But looking at the instruction through the lens of the season of Advent it would make a whole new meaning for us especially with regards to the next instruction which tells us to prepare a way for the Lord and make his paths straight.
Preparing a way for the Lord demands that we break with our old ways. It is at this point that we should detach and depart from sin. There is a need for us to examine our lives this period of Advent. As John the Baptist suggested in his pre-messianic Oracle, there should be a reasonable change in the way we do things; that means reconstructing our relationship with God and adopting the Advent way.
St. Paul in the Second Reading today (Romans 15:4-9) reminds us that the call to repentance and preparing the way for the Lord is an instruction that we ought to accept and put into practice. It is a message of salvation that will bring us closer to one another for the glory of God.
As we light the second candle of the Advent may we be conscious of the fact that we need to mend the way to our heart for the coming of our Lord and saviour. Repentance is important at this time because the Lord cannot afford to be born in a sinful heart.
Happy Second Sunday of Advent and may your blessings increase.