The following was preached in Dominican Chapel at Marywood on Sunday, December 6, 2020, by Sister Janet Brown OP
ADVENT, 2nd Sun, B Is 40:1-5,9-11; 2 Pet 3:8-14; Mk 1-8
In Mark’s gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ begins in the wilderness of Judea, with nothing but rock and sand and silence. In that wilderness, the messenger John, was sent by God to proclaim the way of the Lord. The people flocked to him, even though they had trouble just getting out there! What were they looking for – purpose? Whatever, they venture out to the desert – with some kind of new-found hope.
We, too, are searching for hope in our lives, for purpose, for some kind of contemplative peace. The global pandemic has interrupted our lives, given us more time, silence, but not contemplative quiet. Our silence might even be somewhat fearful. How long will this pandemic last? What kind of future do we have? No kind of certainty! News gives us more uncertainty, fear, pain, suffering, death. Things feel out of control. Yes, we are blessed: we have a home, each other, our meals- no money problems. But, the sick from all over the globe are crying out! 1st responders, doctors, nurses, children, immigrants, those suffering from racism & injustices. The economy is bad, people are starving. Here, in our wilderness, in our desert, today, we are called to cry out with voices of hope: hope not only for ourselves, but for others! Prepare the way of the Lord! How? How are we supposed to proclaim God’s promise of salvation when we feel so overwhelmed? How can we comfort God’s people, to speak tenderly?
It is in this world today that we are called to reach out – beyond ourselves. Beyond our mts of illusions that we’ve become accustomed to… we’ve learned how to deal with our valleys, so that sometimes we see things, not as they really are, but as we are – with our illusions. When John the Baptist talks about preparing the way of the Lord, are we that desert road upon which the Lord wishes to travel – and our hearts the rough places that need to become smooth? This pandemic has driven us beyond our illusions. We hear the voices today more clearly that have been crying out for generations. Maybe our hope is that we surrender as never before to the way of the Lord here in our Advent desert. Jesus came to show us the Way.
Jesus changed the world by entering into it, and sending His own Spirit to live in and among us forever. John the Baptist himself recognized this difference. He said: One mightier than I is coming after me. I have baptized with water; he will baptize with the Holy Spirit. We need to turn to this God who loves us here in the desert to find out what and how we should reform, to let silence speak. God desires for us to feel and know God’s Spirit within. The Source of true reform isn’t my own initiative, my own resources, my own control. It is God who shapes us – in God’s hands, like a potter – into his own image. Advent is a time when we open ourselves, like John the Baptist, to God coming to transform our hearts.
In the wilderness, God is with us, and God says: comfort my people. Let the valleys, the hills and rough places become a highway for our God, from the wilderness to the Reign of God. See, all creation points and paves the way toward God’s glory that shall be revealed. With Moses, it’s in a burning bush, with Elijah it’s in a small voice. With Isaiah, the glory of the Lord is revealed in the peaceable kingdom where the wolf and the lamb are guest together. In Christ Jesus, the hungry are fed, the naked are clothed, the sick and dying are cared for, the lost are embraced, and the 1st are last, and the last first. May we discover and see the face of Christ in all we meet.
As we wait for an end to this pandemic, may we hear God speak words of tenderness and comfort to us. Heaven and earth are singing: they repeat the sounding joy that comes from somewhere deep within. We’ve heard it before. But it’s more than we might expect. . . May our Advent keep us on the way of the Lord. We pray that God may transform our cries of uncertainty into Advent hope where we see and hear God within the heart of all creation. May your 2nd week of Advent be blessed!