In the first reading from Mass today, the prophet Isaiah says:
A voice cries out:
In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!
Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill shall be made low;
The rugged land shall be made a plain,
the rough country, a broad valley.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together.
How does this reading relate to us? What are these highways, valleys, and mountains the prophet is talking about? We can look at them figuratively, showing us how we can prepare ourselves individually for the Lord.
First, make straight the highway. The Lord wants to come directly to us, following his own path. Not the path that we want, but his own path. And he wants to come to us quickly; we ought to want him to come to us quickly. He wants to come directly into our hearts. How can we make that path straight? By focusing our hearts directly on him. Through prayer, the sacraments, and reading scripture. The more we are able to focus on him, the straighter the path will become and the more directly he will reach into our hearts.
Next, each valley shall be filled in. The valley is an empty part of the land to which something needs to be added. So what needs to be added to our lives to prepare for the Lord? One thing is good deeds and acts of charity, serving those who are in need. Another is growth in the virtues: being kind to others, being patient and forgiving, filled with hope and faith. Adding these little bits of love into our lives will allow the Lord to come to us more quickly and directly.
Finally, every mountain shall be made low. Just as the valley represented something that needs to be added, the mountain represents something in our lives that needs to be removed. Those are our vices and our sins. Selfishness, pride, greed. Those actions we take that are meant to serve ourselves but could harm others. Gossip, speaking ill about others. All of those actions we do throughout the day that are not motivated by love and charity. Those are our vices, and those are the things that we need to get rid of, as a mountain, so that the Lord may come to us.
During the season of Advent leading up to Christmas, we prepare ourselves for the Lord, not just to celebrate his historical birth into the world, but also to welcome him as he enters into our lives today. It is during this season that we can examine where we have made the road winding for the Lord, and where we have put valleys and mountains in his path. When we have prepared the way for the Lord, then, as St. John the Baptist says, “all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Luke 3:6).