2nd Sunday of Advent 2005
The other day I was in my office and received a call from Betty saying that someone was waiting to see me. I didn’t have an appointment and I didn’t recognize the name. I immediately assumed that this person wanted something from me. Money for a ticket to Springfield or Portland, most likely. Perhaps spiritual counsel but more likely, a “handout”. The cynical side of me makes me wary when a stranger appears at the door, asking to see me. So I was quite surprised, startled, when this woman said (As if reading my mind) You don’t know me but I just wanted to thank you. I wanted to thank you so much for all the work you do to let people see God through dance. Needless to say, I was grateful and embarrassed. She told me some of her own story of wanting to be a dancer but having too much in her life to let that happen.
After hearing this woman’s voice affirming, not criticizing and standing in judgment as I so often hear, I began to think, “Was this the voice of God, or a herald, a messenger from God, (Come to think of it she did look a lot like John the Baptist) Could this voice speaking to me in my cynicism, my hopelessness to say a word of Comfort, of encouragement, of challenge to my thinking what I do worthless. Or even myself as worth-less than I think.
What voices have you been listening to lately? Are they cynical voices that tell you that there is no reason to trust, to believe in yourself? Are they voices that tell you you are “imperfectly made by God”, “disordered”. Are they voices that tell you do not belong, you are not good enough, you are worth-less than others? Are they voices that make you hopeless or cynical? OR are there Voices that tell you there’s nothing about you that needs a “change of heart”?
Dum spiro, spero. As long as I breathe, I hope. Or “to live is to hope”. If you are a reader of America magazine, you may have seen these words in an article for a series on Hope by Jesuit Lasidlas Orsy. These articles are a reflection on the 40th anniversary of the Second Vatical Council. In it Orsy, says that as a pilgrim people, as we hear in those documents, hope is our driving force. He goes on to lament the loss of hope of many within our Catholic community. He says “we live as long as we hope. WE live as much as we hope. Loss of hope is a loss of life. Blessed ar they who dare to hope for they will have life.
So I hope today that the voice of one crying in the wilderness, the prophet Isaiah gives you comfort, enables you to hope. He is speaking to a people who have been in exile in Babylon, who have felt that God has abandoned them, that they have so offended God that God wants no part of them. They have heard consistently how they have failed, and how sinful they are. That is why they are in exile. But now they hear a new voice: God is speaking words of Comfort and Consolation to a people who are wounded. Speak tenderly. But speak boldly. Go up to a high mountainaand proclaim from the heights that God is caring for his people like a shepherd, carrying the lambs in his arms. And how are they going to get back to their homeland,back to the city of Jerusalem. God will make straight the highway, flatten it out, cut away every obstacle, get rid of every danger in the desert that can possibly get in the way.
Can the voice of the prophet Isaiah, speaking words of comfort, bring us that same comfort, counteract the voices that tell us there is no remedy to our “losing hope”.
I hope today that the voice on one in the wilderness “Crying, prepare the way of the Lord, make sraight his paths. You hear as a voice of challenge, an exciting voice that invites you to a “change of heart”, a letting go of the past, and something totally new. This strange invdividual, John the Baptizer, comes on the scene, inviting people into a new reality, a deliverance from the slavery of sin and with a promise of God’s kingdom being near at hand. What this herald, this messenger says is that God’s rule is about to take over in your life, if you let it. If you enter into the waters of the Jordan. And into the promised land.
I hope that those of you who are here for the rite of acceptance, asking for baptism in this Church community are hearing these voices of comfort, of promise, of challenge in the voices of the prophet Isiaah and John the Baptist.
I hope that those of you who are here to Prepare for your full initiation into the Catholic community through eucharist and confirmation are hearing these voices as well. There are so many competing voices in our world today. Voices that tell you that God is no where to be found or that God is obsolete or that the Church will never change.Dum spiro, spero. While I live I hope. I hope that your voices will be heard in our world and in our church, calling us to live faithfully.