A Voice Crying Out: 2nd Sunday of Advent
We are reminded today that Isaiah prophesied a voice crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low.” That voice belongs to John the Baptist, the son of Zechariah, himself a holy man.
John’s was a powerful voice. He was an itinerant preacher who had a major influence on Jesus’ way of proceeding. He saw his role as being the precursor of Jesus. “He must increase and I must decrease.” John’s way of communicating had nothing to do with ego.
He, like Isaiah and other Old Testament prophets, was passionate about justice, challenging the status quo, and rooting out the unfaithfulness of the women and men of his day.
Our world is crying out for hope. We hear about Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. Jesus has many reasons to weep these days: the plight of the earth itself, relentless acts of terrorism and violence throughout the world, the situation in places such as Yemen, increasing fear and hatred of outsiders, violence in synagogues and churches and mosques, political leaders who stoke our fears, and so on.
Jesus weeps and he invites us to weep as well. When the weeping ends, we’ll move to action – even if it seems minor.
We often lament the lack of truly prophetic figures. When we think of a broad notion of prophecy, we can include many who speak the uncomfortable truth as opposed to the expedient lie. Hidden in the midst of the scandals, injustice and corruption, there are people who speak the truth with hope. Their words are a challenge to our lifestyle and our complacency about the possibility of change.
An obvious illustration is Pope Francis. His writing and speaking is prophetic. Prophetic words are often met with strong resistance from the people who have the most to lose when the status quo is threatened. Francis has his enemies both outside and inside the Church. That raises his status as a prophet in the eyes of many people.
Would we be able to hear John the Baptist today? Are we able to hear the prophetic characters in our culture and era? Are we able to open our ears and hearts, to really and truly hear the cries of people such as John? He shows us a few of the characteristics of many of our prophetic people.
He spoke the truth in a spirit of humility. He offended many who listened to him. People can get uncomfortable with prophetic figures who are too honest and blunt. John was a threat. A prophet is in tune with God’s movement in his or her life. They listen in an astute and discerning manner to how the Word of God intersects with human reality.
Our Advent journey continues. Here’s a simple idea for part of our prayer this week. Think of someone such as a spiritual author, a religious leader or an inspiring individual whose words pose a threat to your complacency.
What does that do to you? How do you pray with that? Let’s bring the pain of the world and that prophetic person with us on our Advent adventure.