John the Baptist, the Paradox of Advent
Second Sunday of Advent, Dec. 9, 2012 (2AdvC)
By Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB
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Transformation of our deserts
Advent is a mystery that transforms and not simply informs. Advent remains with its paradoxical combination of waiting and hastening, suffering and joy, judgment and deliverance, apocalyptic woe and eschatological hope. Unfortunately for our culture of instant gratification, hope requires incompleteness. To hope, in the true Advent fashion, is to live with the certainty of unfulfilled desire.
The God who was a highway engineer making new ways through the wilderness, a gardener turning deserts into flower gardens, is now the artist painting a new perspective of the age-old messianic promise of hope. Hope in God cannot stand still, because -- as Isaiah reminds us, we hope in a God who is constantly doing a new thing. Does our hope in God hold fast in the face of chaos and confusion in our life? How do we live with the Word of God? How can we live with the silence of God?
Advent teaches us that if we are quiet in our hearts long enough, we will discover the God still carves out highways and turns the desert places of our lives into oases of wonder, life, beauty, even though nothing will be as we expected. Any transformation of the wilderness depends on water.
Throughout the Old Testament, God is spoken of as the one who gives or withholds water -- an image easily understood by people for whom water is a precious and controlled commodity. Few of us in the First World have an idea of drought. Our water piped into our homes deprives us of an image of God as the one on whom our very existence depends; similarly, electricity deludes us in to thinking we have the darkness under control. Together they rob us of daily experiences that could give vibrancy to the Advent invitation to revisit our dependence on God, to revisit our desire for God and to discover through the night of waiting that God does indeed come.
The message of Advent is not that everything is falling to pieces. Nor is it that God is in heaven and all is therefore well with the world. Rather the message of Advent is that when every fixed star on the moral compass is wavering, when all hell is breaking loose on earth, we hear once again the Baptist's consoling message: "Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God."
Yet even with the birth of Jesus, we learn that Jerusalem and Israel still awaited their redemption. The world still awaits its freedom from hunger, war, oppression, violence, persecution and suffering. We all await our redemption. Advent challenges us to look at the ways that we wait, the ways that we long for God, and the ways that we hope. What and who is the source of our Advent hope?
John the Baptist's life can be summed up in the image of a finger pointing to the one who was coming: Jesus Christ. If we are to take on John's role of preparing the way in today's world, our lives also will become the pointing fingers of living witnesses who demonstrate that Jesus can be found and that he is near. Jesus is the fulfillment of our longing, our hoping and waiting. Jesus alone can transform the deserts of our lives into living gardens of beauty and nourishment for the world.
Come, Lord Jesus! We need you now more than ever!
[The readings for the 2nd Sunday of Advent are Baruch 5:1-9; 1 Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11; and Luke 3:1-6]
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Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, chief executive officer of the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and Television Network in Canada, is a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.
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