Bottom line: John the Baptist calls us to connect with the ocean of God's mercy.
This Advent we begin a new cycle of Scripture readings, called "Year C." St. Mark's Gospel dominated last year, Year B and St. Matthew, Year A. We now focus on the Third Gospel: The Gospel according to St. Luke.
St. Luke has his particular emphasis. For example, he takes care to situate his Gospel in the context of human history. He introduces the ministry of John the Baptist (and subsequently Jesus) by saying, "In the fifteen year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar..." Then he goes on to mention other secular rulers: Pontius Pilate, Herod, Philip and Lsyanias. He also includes religious authorities: Annas and Caiphas.
This location in time and place has importance. Sometimes you and I feel constrained by time and place. I'd be a rich man if I had a dime for every time someone told me, "Father, I wish I could fly away to to some distant place."
The story is told about a young monk who approached an experienced desert father. He expressed his frustration, "I feel so restricted. I am stagnating like a pond or a puddle." The elderly monk responded, "Then do not be a pond. Be a bay."*
A bay of course is joined with the immense ocean. Each day it has a fresh exchange of water. It rarely stagnates.
St. John the Baptist was like that. He was in an extremely lonely spot - the Judean desert. He had a bland, unexciting diet. No TV, no Internet, no newspaper, no book of the month. But he did not stagnate. He connected with the great ocean - God's mercy.
Today's Gospel states that John proclaimed a "baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sin." Next Sunday I will explain in more detail what sin is. This sunday I ask you to open your heart to the ocean of God's mercy.
The first reading speaks about taking off the "robe of mourning and misery." All of us wear a robe of misery because of our sins. But God wants to take away that restricting garment.
In Peru (and many other countries) people wear black clothes after the death of a loved one. The Peruvians will wear mourning garments for three years. Then after a three-year Mass, they go to a side chapel and take off their black clothes. Beneath they have white and colored shirts. And once again, they take part in community fiestas and dances.
This Advent God wants to take from us the robe of misery and "put on the splendor of glory." As St. John say, to fill the valleys and make low the mountains. That is, bring down the mountains of arrogance and lift up the valleys of despair. Make a direct path for the Lord. Connect with the ocean of God's mercy.
*Illustration from El Evangelio Dominical y Festivo by Tomáš Špidlík
General Intercessions for Second Sunday of Advent, Cycle C (from Priests for Life)
From Archives (Homily for Second Sunday of Advent, Year C):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Message to Parishioners ("At our Finance Council meeting this week, we noted a disturbing trend in Stewardship Pledges here at St. Mary’s.")
St. Mary of the Valley Album
(November of 2009)
Pictures from Peru
(Aaron Howard with girls at Puno orphanage, Daughters of Charity in background)
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
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