“Prepare the way of the Lord.”
The voice of the Baptist cries out in the wilderness this week. He reminds us that in this time of Advent, we are called to be especially mindful of our preparation to encounter the Lord. In this liturgical season, we are reminded that our lives are in themselves a preparation for the day when we meet the Lord face to face in the next life. We also prepare ourselves for that final meeting by meeting the Lord himself, present in the appearance of bread and wine which have become His body and blood every time we enter a Church with a tabernacle and every time we participate in the Mass itself.
How do you prepare yourself to participate in the Mass? Do you take time to prepare by spending some time with the readings sometime during the week? Do you take time to put on clothing that shows God you respect Him? Do you arrive early to have some time to kneel and reflect on the awesome mystery you are about to participate in?
Pope Francis, in his general audience on November 15th, spoke of the beauty of the mystery we behold at every Mass: “To illustrate the beauty of the Eucharistic celebration, I would like to begin with a very simple aspect: Mass is prayer; rather, it is prayer par excellence, the loftiest, the most sublime, and at the same time the most ‘concrete’. In fact, it is the loving encounter with God through his Word and the Body and Blood of Jesus… Praying, as every true dialogue, is also knowing how to be in silence — in dialogues there are moments of silence — in silence together with Jesus. When we go to Mass, perhaps we arrive five minutes early and begin to chat with the person next to us. But this is not the moment for small talk; it is the moment of silence to prepare ourselves for ‘the’ dialogue. It is the moment for recollection within the heart, to prepare ourselves for the encounter with Jesus. Silence is so important! We are not going to a spectacle, we are going to the encounter with the Lord, and silence prepares us and accompanies us.” He continues by suggesting that if we do not know how to pray or if we struggle to enter into prayer, we should begin by following the example of the Apostles and simply ask God, “Lord, teach me how to pray.” Then, remember that you are a child of God and place yourself in a place of trust in your heavenly Father. Also, let yourself be surprised like you were when you were a child, when everything was new. “Do we allow ourselves to be surprised by God who is always the God of surprises? Because the encounter with the Lord is always a living encounter; it is not a museum encounter. It is a living encounter, and we go to Mass, not to a museum. We go to a living encounter with the Lord.”
Let us use this time of Advent preparation to improve how we approach the most beautiful moments of our week… the encounter with God that is Mass. If we make some effort to ask God to help us pray, to humbly trust Him a little more, and to let ourselves be surprised by Him, then when the celebration of Christmas arrives, we will be better prepared to encounter the Christ child in manger and marvel at the mystery of Christmas as if we were children again.
May God help you to prepare your heart!