Welcome to our second installment of this series on the Scripture readings for Advent, Year C. I mentioned in the first installment that, as I reflected on the Advent Scripture readings, I thought of the image of castaways on a deserted island, feeling hopeless and abandoned. The readings for the First Week of Advent reassured us that “help is on the way!”
The Scripture readings for the Second Sunday of Advent tell us that, while help is on the way, we need to prepare for our rescue. How do we do this? A good place to start is to sift through what we have accumulated during our “exile” and prioritize that which will be most essential for the journey ahead. In our spiritual lives, we need to simplify our lives and re-prioritize, letting go of that which is superfluous. In her book, Blessed by Less: Clearing Your Life of Clutter by Living Lightly, author Susan Vogt recommends the following strategies for simplifying our lives:
- eliminating clutter and excess possessions
- consuming less
- limiting time spent on social media
- giving away possessions
- simplifying wardrobes
- limiting buying habits
- eating out less often and brown-bagging it more
- buying second-hand
- spending more time in nature
- purchasing fair-trade products
Vogt emphasizes that living simply is a spiritual principle at the heart of Ignatian spirituality. St. Ignatius Loyola insisted that one of the keys to spiritual wellness is detachment from the things and worries of this world that might distract us from pursuing our ultimate purpose in life: to deepen our relationship with God, who rescues us through his Son, Jesus Christ. This is the heart of John the Baptist’s urgent message:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (Luke 3:4–6)
So, re-prioritizing is the first step in our preparation to receive the rescue God offers us: we won’t be able to grasp a lifeline if we are holding on to too many possessions. But notice how the first step leads directly to the second step: we do the first so that “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” The second step in preparing for our rescue is to announce it to others. We need to come out of the caves we have been seeking shelter in and light a huge bonfire so that all those stranded will see the light and gather at the rendezvous point for rescue. It’s our duty to let others know that help is on the way and to let them know the manner in which that help is coming.
This notion is captured beautifully in the children’s book, Leo’s Gift (by Susan Blackaby and Joellyn Cicciarelli), in which a shy but creative young man comes to recognize the gift he has been given as a piano player and how he is called to share this gift for the benefit of others. Centuries before Jesus urged us to “let your light shine before others” (Matthew 5:16), the prophet Baruch exhorted us to “take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem, and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God.” (Baruch 5:1) so that others may find their way to the God who “has remembered them” (5:5).
As the Second Week of Advent unfolds, let us commit to simplifying our lives—removing the clutter that prevents us from recognizing God’s rescuing hand—and to bringing the Good News of this rescue to others who yearn for God’s mercy and righteousness.