Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Advent 2022
If I were to ask you, “Have you ever had a wilderness experiences?” Hopefully you would say yes! Because we all have them. They’re part of the fabric of life. Quiet, lifeless dry times that creep into our being. Each and every one of us has been, at one time or another, thrust into a physical, emotional, or financial wilderness, wondering, confused, trying to make sense of why we have them.
Look at the people in BC where people ravaged by fire now have to deal with snow, which they’re not used too. Or those in USA… thousands who have lost their jobs at Twitter. No money, no bonuses, no pay out packages. Certainly, both wilderness experiences. Or the Ukraine who is under attack, without housing or heat…so many will freeze to death this winter. Or the rising prices of everything… the strained marriages, or the bad news that comes from a doctor’s office or the death of a loved one. These are wilderness moments.
Also, very common and yet no less frightful is a spiritual wilderness. And yet these experiences can be a good for us… we all need our place to go for peace and quiet… the perfect environment to pray and reflect. John the Baptist spent his adult life in the wilderness, a place without distractions, living in prayer and solitude. And today we hear that the word of God came to John and so he leaves this life of wilderness living and goes out into the people and begins to preach a baptism of positive change and forgiveness. As the forerunner of Jesus, John’s work was to prepare the people to receive the one who is coming, the one who is “the salvation of God,” as we heard in the Gospel. By living a wilderness life, John was prepared to begin this ministry. After being baptized in the Jordan, Jesus will also be led into the wilderness by the Spirit to prepare for his ministry by fasting and prayer for 40 nights.
What about us? Where is our wilderness that we go to? Look at those around us and beyond… we have been busy preparing for Christmas, shopping, baking, sending out Christmas Cards and so on. It’s wonderful how we contributed, to the Men’s Addiction Center, and those who donate to the Christmas Baskets for the needy. All great and wonderful things.
But again, how are we preparing ourselves spiritually? Are we taking advantage to the ‘little desert,’ experiences that are offered to us? Do we welcome some quiet time during the day where we can use our Advent Booklets? Do we take time to settle ourselves and sit quietly before Mass in prayerful presence of God? Do we appreciate and support the Eucharist that is offered at our worship sites? Do we acknowledge the ‘new parishioners’ who may be wondering in our wilderness here, trying to connect… do we make them feel welcomed by introducing ourselves? Do we notice the positive change in ourselves after each wilderness experience?
As you can see there are many opportunities for us to help others in the spiritual wilderness while at the same time, cultivate interior silence and contemplation for ourselves. As followers of Jesus, we too are invited into the wilderness, into that area of stillness and peace in our own lives before the great celebration of Christmas. Let us be honest with ourselves, “How might I set aside time this Advent for some good quality conversation with Jesus during the busiest time of year?
This morning from 9-11 the group who met with the Revitalization Committee two weeks ago to look at how we are doing as a parish and what needs to improve. These same people spent a Saturday, withdrawn from the busyness of life… to go into the wilderness with God. What a fruitful experience! Stay tuned! Also, this past Wednesday, we celebrated Evening Prayer at SRWS. The quiet environment, the dimmed light, the songs, Scripture, beautiful reflection by Stephen Parker, about 40 people came into that wilderness space, weighted down with whatever, but left, with joy in their hearts. This coming Wednesday, Reconciliation Service. And week after that, SJHS Choir. All ways of inviting God into the wilderness of our hearts.
John the Baptist is one of the central figures of Advent. We can imagine him standing strong shouting in the wilderness, “Prepare a way for the Lord… change your ways.” We need today, prophets shouting God’s Word in the wilderness of our hearts, making us feel God’s closeness, acceptance, and love. Are we ready to listen? Then, are we ready to do? Amen.