Pope Francis (in a homily given at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls on April 14, 2013), offered these words about true worship of God.
What does it mean, then, to worship God? It means learning to be with him; it means that we stop trying to dialogue with him; and it means sensing that his presence is the truest, the most good, the most important thing of all. All of us, in our own lives, consciously and perhaps sometimes unconsciously, have a very clear order of priority concerning the things we consider important. Worshipping the Lord means giving him the place that he must have; worshipping the Lord means stating, believing – not only by our words – that he alone truly guides our lives. Worshipping the Lord means that we are convinced before him that he is the only God, the God of our lives, the God of our history.
This has a consequence in our lives: we have to empty ourselves of the many small or great idols that we have and in which we take refuge on which we often seek to base our security…
The words of Isaiah the prophet are given in regards to John the Baptist, “Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’” John the Baptist, on the banks of the Jordan River and not in the resplendence of the Temple, is calling the people of Israel back to true worship of God. John the Baptist, on this second Sunday of Advent, is calling us also to true worship of God.
To prepare the way of the Lord, to make straight his paths means to clear out from our lives and our hearts all those many small and great idols that we carry and to which we cling in order to give the true and living God the priority which alone is God’s due. To prepare the way of the Lord means, as Pope Francis says, “…learning to be with (God) … sensing that his presence is the truest, the most good, the most important thing of all.”
Sometimes true character is demonstrated by what one refuses even more so than by what one achieves. Just as John proclaimed the coming of the Messiah he also proclaimed that he was not the one! The gospel testifies that all the people of the Judean countryside were coming to John – they were all yearning for the Messiah, for a change. John could have grabbed that desire and energy of the masses and claimed it for himself but he did not. “One mightier than I is coming after me … I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
The real test of worship is how it transforms lives, how it opens us up in humble awareness to the presence of God in our lives. John had this awareness even, it seems, from those first months in his mother’s womb when he leapt for joy in the presence of the Messiah who, himself, was being carried in womb of the Virgin. John in the desert, clothed in camel’s hair and a leather belt, witnessed true worship of God and this is what drew the people of Israel to him. They recognized his authenticity. John the Baptist lived in the presence and awareness of God. He made straight the way of the Lord in his own life. He invites us to do the same.
Prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight his paths! Worshipping the Lord means giving him the place that he must have; worshipping the Lord means stating, believing – not only by our words – that he alone truly guides our lives. Worshipping the Lord means that we are convinced before him that he is the only God, the God of our lives, the God of our history