Food manufacturers analyze their products before releasing them to the public, identifying any impurities that don’t belong.

That’s what the end of the world will be like—except with us it’s our purities that will get all the attention. God will put the earth he created through a pressure test and all the pure elements, those that are important to his plan, will surface while everything else cooks away. Peter foretold this process in this Sunday’s second reading (2 PT 3:8-14) so God’s recipe for salvation would be passed from generation to generation:

“The elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out. Since everything is to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be, conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God … be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.

God’s pressure test (called life) is the process that reveals purity. But both Isaiah in our first reading (IS 40:1-5, 9-11) and then Mark in the gospel reading (MK 1:1-8) recommend that we not be passive ingredients and instead be active agents of our salvation. Isaiah quotes the voice crying out in the desert, “Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!” But in our gospel reading Mark adds something important about the role of that messenger Isaiah told us about: “He will prepare YOUR way.”

First John the Baptist paved the way for us to Jesus, then Christ paved the way that leads to his Father so it would be easier for us to make the journey. Christ’s way is a mountain highway upon which we are expected to build traffic riding toward a massive audience with God. As Isaiah continues,

“The glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken. Go up on to a high mountain, Zion, herald of glad tidings; cry out at the top of your voice, Jerusalem, herald of good news! Fear not to cry out and say to the cities of Judah: Here is your God! Here comes with power the Lord GOD!”

He’s coming our way and he knows where to find us–but we are called to meet him half-way on the highway leading to him and cry out “We’re here, we’re purified and we belong in your creation!”