Making Low Our Mountains

Second Sunday of Advent (B)

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Our gospel this Sunday introduces us to John the Baptist, the forerunner of our Lord, crying out for us to “prepare the way of the Lord and make straight His paths.” This image of making the oftentimes crooked and winding paths of our human life straight hearkens back to Isaiah’s prophecy from the first reading.

Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill shall be made low;
the rugged land shall be made a plain,
the rough country, a broad valley (Is 40:4).

On one level, the prophet is referring to the great destruction that will come at the end of time. Mountains and hills shall crumble to the ground; St. Peter in our second reading (2 Pt 3:8-14) talks about the heavens themselves “passing away with a mighty roar,” and the very elements being “dissolved by fire.”

The idea that the material universe will one day end should have meaning for us. Granted, it may be hard for us to muster up much interest in this far future time, of unknown date, when we have more immediate concerns pressing upon us. There are exams to study for, and final projects to complete. There are jobs to apply for and student loans that need paying. There are issues with family members and friends that weigh heavily on our hearts. Relationships are broken. Relationships are mended. Friendships made, friendships ended, and friendships renewed. Some of us struggle with problems of physical health. Some of us struggle with mental or emotional health concerns. Perhaps we don’t suffer these things, but have friends who do and we struggle with not knowing how to help them.

We all have our mountains and valleys standing in our way. We all have our rugged lands through which we must journey.

Advent is our yearly reminder that all these things weighing us down will eventually pass away. In fact there is only one thing that will never pass away, and that is God; so the only thing in our life which is of eternal value is our relationship with Him.

This doesn’t mean that you don’t study for your exams, take care of your physical and emotional health, or tend to your friendships. But it does put all these things in perspective. I know many students are stressing out right now over exam week. I also know that a week from today, all exams will be over. The stresses of this moment will pass away. Knowing that they will come to an end and there is a light at the end of the tunnel makes today’s problems bearable. This is true of exam week. But it’s also true of all of life’s problems. All of it will pass away at some point. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, a light that never fades, Jesus Christ, the true light Who has come into the world to dispel the darkness.

This is why the most important thing we can do in our life is to remain close to Him; to love Him, and live in that love by following His commands. St. Peter states clearly: “Since everything is to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be, conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God” (2 Pt 2:11-12).

Our psalm this Sunday talks about the Lord proclaiming peace to His people (Ps 85) and Isaiah speaks of God giving comfort. This peace and comfort is not only to be found in some far away future heaven (though there it will be known perfectly). It is also to be found here and now, when we are able to look past the present burdens of our life to the God who guides us through them to Himself — just as Jesus passed through the Way of the Cross. Peace is not found in this life in the absence of suffering, but by being united to Jesus in the midst of our suffering.

Then God will lower the mountains of your burdens. God will fill in the valleys of your trials. God will make a smooth and level plain out of the rugged land of your life. But we make straight our path to Him. Don’t let anything stand between you and Christ.