December 13, 2017

Advent and John the Baptist

In the Season of Advent, we should allow ourselves to experience the mystery of John the Baptist. His voice rings in our conscience and when we hear it, God is able to make space in our hearts for the joy of Christmas. The Baptist's voice sets a limit on the power and authority of the world in our lives. His voice reminds us of the truth about marriage and family, about faithfulness and sin, about God and our neighbor.

If we are comfortable, the Baptist makes us uneasy.  If we are arrogant, His voice humbles us. If we are confused, he is there to clarify. If we are discouraged, he helps us find the heart we need. This inner voice prepares for the Coming of Word of the Father. It is a voice that helps us recognize the truth that we need. If we do not hear this voice, it is easy to forget what it means to be, not only a Christian. but even decent human being. Such is the mission of the Baptist in the life of the Church and the plan of God.

We need to listen to the voice of John the Baptist anew. In our great wealth and power, we have become spiritually dull. In our self-conceit and self-interest, we live imprisoned in our egos - and remain powerless to help others find freedom.  In our fear of discomfort and inconvenience, we have robbed ourselves of the greatness of God's love. The witness of the Baptist cuts through fear, self, wealth and power - and makes us vulnerable to the truth once again.

To listen to the voice of the Baptist requires us to withdraw into our hearts and be still.  It requires the confession of sin and the readiness to commit ourselves to reparation for what we have done and not done for others. It requires us to listen to the suffering of those often alienated and sometimes tormented souls that God has entrusted to us. The voice of the Baptist can be in the distressing outburst of an autistic child, or in the quiet sobs of a grieving widow. His voice whispers among the brokenhearted who have lost it all and it calls out among the cynical who risk being lost forever. This call to love requires patient vigilance.  To make space for this voice in our lives, we must welcome the inconvenience and discomfort it causes - this suffering is salvific.

None of this is comfortable, but it makes all the difference in life. If we let what this prophet says change our judgments about ourselves, the world, and God, a pathway to reconciliation, integrity and fulfillment is opened before us. Listening to the Baptist and heeding his call to repentance fills in valleys of indifference and levels mountains of sin. Our whole being and existence is made ready for the coming of Word of the Father into the reality of our lives - a suffering joy that not only makes life meaningful, but lifts up everyone around us.