Gaudete, praeparari faceret quem tu praedicas.
Be prepared, the Lord is coming. This is the recurrent cry heard in the readings in this advent season. Be prepared, make the mountains low, raise up the valleys and make the paths straight for the coming of the Lord. What a poetic image these words create on the importance of being prepared. And today, the 3rd Sunday of advent we hear the introit exclaiming “Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete! (Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice)!” The King of Israel is near and it is time to celebrate the arrival of a mighty savior. Yes, the Messiah is at hand, just 12 more shopping days until Christmas: are you ready for the festivities? Is your tree up? Are all the lights lit? Do you have the fixings for the feast, the stuffing, the peas and the roast beast? Are your gifts wrapped, and stockings hung and have you made that pudding with the plums? Have you readied all for this big affair, surely this is how to be prepared. Or is it?
We all grasp what it means to be ready for the holiday festivities, yet this has little to do with the being prepared for the joy, the gladness and ecstasy found in this most humble of nativities. How does one prepare for the coming of the messiah, the King of Kings, the Lord and Savior, the one who brings the peace, the joy and the love of the Creator to all of humanity? How does one shop and cook for the alpha and omega; do you get Him a tie, make Him cookies and milk? What do we DO to prepare ourselves for this auspicious arrival of the most Sacred and Holy One?
It’s a very good question, and one asked by the people to whom John the Baptist preached. And the answer John gave was simple: Practice what you Preach and do the good your faith would have you do. The good news John brought to the people ahead of Jesus was not novel or revolutionary; it is the message found in the sacred texts, proclaimed by the prophets and promised to man by the Creator from the dawn of time. John proclaimed the coming of the Word made Flesh, the manifestation of the truth in their faith here on earth. John told the crowds that the Christ is the living expression of this truth, the light of creation, the living example of God’s truth. To be prepared to meet the word made flesh, one must live the word; share what you have with those who do not have, take no more than you are due, do not be greedy, do not steal cheat or lie; practice your faith in all aspects of your life and you will be prepared.
We all should be practicing our faith in everything we do and say. Practice your faith, it probably sounds strange to your ears; we think of practice as something one does in sports, like throwing a ball, or in the arts like singing or playing the piano, and faith is like the thoughts we have in our heart or mind. When I was in college, I had a theology professor who said “faith is something you DO, not something you have”. Those words have stuck with me these many years and they are the key to being prepared. We must practice,( ie apply, perform, do over and over) our faith (the things God has told us He wants us to do). Jesus was the living embodiment of the word: He walked, talked and acted according to how God wants each of us to live and act. He lived out His obligation, His part, OUR part of the covenant with the Creator. God promises that by living, breathing and acting according to His commands we would always be prepared, and in being prepared the Lord will always be at hand, we will be known for all the good we do, our hearts will for ever rejoice in the Lord and our prayers will be answered. When we walk the walk, and talk the talk, we will have no fear; no anxiety, for the Lord God will rejoice over us and, as St Paul so adeptly said, “The peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Today, Gaudete Sunday, let us be prepared to practice our faith in our home, our work, our places of worship, out on the streets and in the alleys and throughout all aspects of our life. As you go forth remember, the spirit of the Lord is upon each of you and you have been anointed to bring glad tidings to the poor, the needy, the outcast and the suffering; live the word, practice your faith, be the good news and you will always be prepared. Amen.