Blog Arise and Shine (Luke 3:1-6) by Tricia Tembreull Of all the prophets in Scripture, John the Baptist is my favorite. If he were alive today, PETA would be all over him for his fashion statement of camel’s hair and leather. He ate a vegan diet of locust and wild honey (maybe that should be my Advent sacrifice?), lived in the dessert and had a strange way of proclaiming the Kingdom of God. I think that’s why he’s my favorite – he didn’t try to be anyone or anything he wasn’t, and he didn’t allow culture to influence his message. John proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. His entire life was about preparing souls to encounter the Messiah and pointing them to their Savior. He knew his mission: he never waivered. I think this week, of all weeks, we need to hear Saint John declare a message prompting us to repent and forgive more than ever before. We need to hear, “Prepare the way of the Lord,” proclaimed with vitality and a sense of urgency. So many of us are numb and exhausted from trudging through the winding roads and rough ways of life. The valleys filled with flowers, candles, and small keepsakes memorializing loved ones we have lost in Paris and San Bernardino distress us. “Make straight His path.” (Luke 3:4) Nevertheless, we are not people who live in darkness. No! We have seen a great light (Matthew 4:16)! “Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known.” (Matthew 10:26) We are not people who are hopeless. No! We “rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.” (Romans 12:12) So rid yourself of fear and anxiety. “Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?” (Matthew 6:26) We cannot control anyone but ourselves. We are all sinners, so it must start with us. In this season of Advent, so many of us are waiting in a spiritual desert of hopelessness. We need to be modern day prophets proclaiming the abundant love and mercy of God, even for those who have caused terror to reign around us. Advent is a penitential season where mercy and grace abound. Christ is not absent in this season of waiting; He is waiting for us in the sacraments and at Mass. Advent: Season of Mercy Pope Francis reminds us that, “Everyone should leave the confessional with happiness in their hearts and a face radiant with hope even if sometimes, as we all know, it is bathed with the tears of conversion and the joy that comes from that.” Mercy is the flame that brightens the path for our brothers and sisters to encounter the Lord. Every Mass begins with the Penitential Rite (I confess to Almighty God…that I have sinned through my own fault) and ask for God’s mercy praying, “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.” When we admit we are sinners God turns on the snowplow and clears the path to Him. “May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.” AMEN! Still, God has more mercy to pour out on us. We sing the Gloria and pray, “You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us; you take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer; you are seated at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us.” It’s like Ellen’s 12 Days of Christmas Mercy style…God just gives mercy away. When praying the Our Father, we are reminded that to receive mercy we must be bearers of mercy. “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We then proclaim, “Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us,” followed by the celebrant raising the Blessed Sacrament, saying, “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper.” This merciful grace should overwhelm us like the moment all the golden ticket winners enter Charlie’s Chocolate Factory. It’s just too much to take in! Everything right now seems like it’s too much to take in. During this time of chaos and fear, God is inviting us to repent and seek Him. We must make straight our path to the Lord before helping anyone navigate his or her path to Christ. In the valleys we’ve fashioned in our hearts through our sin, addictions, idleness, or neglect, we are called to make room for Christ to dwell before helping others transform their heart. We are waiting for the birth of Christ on Christmas day and the second coming of Christ but how we wait will make all the difference in our life and the lives of those God places in our path. We are called to prepare the way of the Lord for the Kingdom of God is at hand. “Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25:13) when our Lord will come again. This blog is being posted a few days sooner than normal so we can all pray for our brothers and sisters in San Bernardino, California. My heart is broken for the loss of each soul, home and parish community is grieving. Let us turn this sadness to our healer and consoler, Christ and allow hope this Advent to triumph.