Rev. John Pearson, C.S.C. ’68, ’71 MTh.
Former Law Professor
Chaplain to Phoenix ND Alumni Club

I admit I only have vague ideas where “Ituraea and Trachonitis” might have been and only a distant memory from university days of the people they describe. My modern imprecision doesn’t matter, but to the people of Jesus’ time, those names of people and places emphasized that John the Baptist was a real person in a specific time and place.

He received orders from God to prepare the way so that Jesus’ ministry of preaching, teaching, healing, dying, and eventually rising could touch the hearts of all those who experienced it. That does mean something to me, and I hope to all of us.

When we meet John the Baptist in the context of Mass, we are to hear these words not just as describing the past but as living words that affect how we live our faith today. How are we to be John the Baptist and smooth the way for Jesus to reach the people around us?

I live in a particular time and place—Phoenix, Arizona—with eight other semi-retired Holy Cross priests who are active in the local church.

In this snowless place, we become familiar with helmeted construction workers distributing innumerable orange cones, digging ditches, and reworking roads so often that getting to any one place is always a creative challenge. Which route this time? Will I get there in time? Sometimes we forget that all that digging, scraping, and re-digging will quite literally pave the way for us to do our own John the Baptist thing for Christ.

I love Advent because every year is an opportunity for each of us to learn what new way John the Baptist wants us to join him in smoothing the way for the Lord’s coming.