Perhaps those of us who could look back at our student days (or those who are still at it) would remember the expectation with which prepare for the coming of the final exams. All throughout the course we would be busy absorbing material, reading, researching, seeking more information in order to buttress that which has already been learned. Everything is processed with much activity. But as the exams draw nearer, there is a shift in activity; from this point one doesn’t seek to inculcate new knowledge about the subject, but rather seeks to put into orderly outlines everything that has been mentally digested, pruning here and there, not concerning oneself so much with details, but going straight to the heart of every subject matter. A great deal of purification and simplification may be present in the final preparation before the exam. To prepare oneself means to purify oneself.
I’m saying this not because I myself would soon be entering into a period of exams this December, starting with this week, but because this thought of purification is something that we have to keep especially in mind as we continue our preparation for Christmas. This Sunday the call to be prepared is made especially through the mouth of the Baptist, the herald of the Lord, the Voice that announces the coming of the Word made flesh, that willingly fades away, allowing the Word to remain and speak for itself. This voice, who is none other than John the Baptist, does not speak in favor of himself, but rather points toward the figure of Christ. With the finger pointed towards the coming of the Messiah in the flesh, he announces the need for preparation, echoing the words of the oracle of the prophet Isaiah, which we hear in the First Reading of the Mass: “Every valley should be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low. The rugged land shall be made plain, the rough country, a broad valley.” What are these valleys? These mountains? In order to see them we need not look farther than ourselves: the valleys of our selfishness and egoism, our wallowing in self-pity, which is nothing else but the bitter fruit of our pride and illusions of self sufficiency, which like mountains and hills prevent or at least make difficult the Christ into our lives.
It would not be a bad idea if, during this period of waiting and preparation, we take the time to look within ourselves to see what these valleys and mountains are within our life, which make the coming of Christ difficult, which make us more closed to his visitation. The practice of the daily examination of conscience could help us in the struggle to be prepared and to purify ourselves, not merely with our own efforts, no matter how well-intentioned. Without the grace of the Lord we cannot accomplish anything good in our lives; only our willing correspondence to the free grace of God in our life, which purifies and strengthens us, would allow us to live according to the admonition that is made out to us by the Apostle Peter, which is that we be without spot and blemish as we await for the definitive coming of our Lord. Amen. COME LORD JESUS!