“I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way.” Mark 1:2

Have you heard the expression ‘abrir brecha’? Imagine that you are in the jungle. You find yourself in a place where there is no way to continue. You are the first person in the area and want to keep exploring to find a shelter. With one of your tools, you tenaciously remove the vegetation. Little by little, you clear a path for yourself and for the people who will come after you. It will be easier for them; they probably will not know of your work.

When I went to my first conference for directors of the Hispanic Ministry, they told us emphatically, “Our job is to ‘abrir brecha’ for our people.” I did not understand very well what they were talking about, but I knew that our work would require a big effort for the sake of the community.

In the same way, as immigrants of the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd generation, consciously or unconsciously, we have been ‘abriendo brecha’ for those coming after us. If we are young, we are probably not aware of the one who ‘abrió brecha’ for us. If we are in our middle age, we can recognize the effort required to open a new path for others. We know what it means and what it takes to look for new opportunities for the youngest. If we are old, we probably remember with gratitude all those who ‘abrieron brecha’ for the family or that we are ourselves.

‘Abrir brecha’ is not a competition, it is not to achieve a goal, and it is not a prize either. It is related to expressing our love for others. Because of that love, a person makes an invaluable effort and opens new paths for their loved ones. We can clearly see this gesture of love in the family context.

That is Juan el Bautista’s case. Jesus’ older cousin was entrusted by God himself to ‘abrir brecha’ for His son. That was extremely hard work because Juan’s task was to confront people, make them see how they were living, point out how they had moved away from God, and invite them to repent. He confronted many people, villagers, family, friends, and even the highest-ranking authorities of the time. All who repented were baptized in the Jordan River by him.

People praised Juan, and he responded, “Someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. Mt 3:11” It was definitely a tough job! Every day, he was out preparing the way for Jesus. He not only risked his life to fulfill his mission but also was humble enough to recognize that he was not ‘the One.’

This type of labor, colossal and demanding, cannot be done without love. It can only be carried out when someone truly loves. Juan loved God, he loved his family, he loved Jesus.

I am sure that there is someone like Juan in your family. Perhaps it is that relative who came first to the United States and worked very hard so that the rest of the family could be reunited? Or that brother or sister who was the first to get a scholarship to go to college and thus show that there is a world of opportunities for the younger siblings? What about that person giving a considerable portion of his salary to rescue the family home from foreclosure? Maybe one aunt or cousin who, unselfishly, is taking care of our elders?

Today doesn’t need to be a special day to remember and thank those individuals who love us and are making, or made, a great effort to ‘abrir brecha.’ Perhaps, that is one reason why Jesus went to the Jordan River to see Juan.

Can you think of someone you would like to thank for the opportunities that their effort created for you? Take just a moment to remember that person, whether alive or in Heaven, we can always be grateful to them. You might also want to say a little prayer,

“May our loving Father bless all who have opened a path for us. May God grant us a heart as big as the effort they have made. Amen.”

“Que nuestro amoroso Padre bendiga a todos los que han abierto un camino para nosotros. Que Dios nos de un corazón tan grande como el esfuerzo que han hecho. Amén”.

If you are close to that person and want to, you can also say ‘thank you’ in person. They will be as surprised as Juan when Jesus went to the Jordan River and asked to be baptized by him.