In today’s Gospel we experience John the Baptist urging us to prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus. We hear his familiar cry: “Reform your lives! The kingdom of God is at hand.” John’s baptism was to be a sign of life-long willingness to reform – to change whatever is needed in order to be open to the many ways the Lord will come.

What evidence do we give each day that we are trying to repent – to change? We can’t afford to tell ourselves: I’ve been a faithful member of a faith community. I’ve spent years in ministry. That’s sign enough. Is it? The important question is: Am I open to changing any aspect of my life that may still get in the way of Jesus’ living in me more fully?

St. Francis de Sales has us start with our hearts: Our heart is the source of our action. As our heart is, so are our actions. Whoever wins a person’s heart has won the whole person. Yet even the heart, where we wish to begin, must be instructed.  John the Baptist wants us to fill our fearful hearts with faith and hope. Certain fears and anxieties, when excessive, unnerve the heart and often lead to discouragement. These are the ditches and valleys that must be filled with confidence and hope to prepare for Our Lord’s coming.

Make straight the paths. Roads that twist and turn fatigue and greatly mislead the traveler. We must straighten our ways with confidence that God will give us the necessary help to acquire an even disposition. Don’t lose heart. Be patient. Do all you can to develop a spirit of compassion. I have no doubt that God is holding you by the hand. If God allows you to stumble, it is only to let you know that if God were not holding your hand, you would fall. This is how we learn to take a tighter hold of God’s hand.

It is not possible for us to have a change of heart so totally right away. We need patience. If you strive to practice patience faithfully God will give it to you. We must be like the mariner who, in steering his vessel, always keeps his eye on the needle of the compass. We must have only one intention and that is pleasing God. Let us pay attention to the Word of God and digest it well. How delightful it is to reflect on our Savior. He had perfect equanimity of spirit shining brilliantly in the midst of all sorts of changing circumstances. How pleasing it is to find this even disposition in someone. Those who have Jesus Christ in their heart will soon have Him in all their ways.

God be praised!

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