Sr. Marguerite Kelly, Pastoral Associate
The main Advent character arrives on stage in today’s Gospel. After quite a lengthy historical setting, Luke presents John as appearing prophetically announcing the coming of “the salvation of God.” He, as did Baruch, speaks of valleys and hills being made level and the windy roads made straight.
John is preaching a baptism of repentance. Baptism itself is a purification ritual and John is inviting people to be purified from the unholy hanging-on-to's in their lives. In his way he is asking the people to check out what they are holding onto for their identities, their securities. In short he is announcing that they will be asked to let go of the old and stale forms of relating with God and prepare for something, a Some One who is coming to be held onto. The familiar is so comforting and the Baptist is proclaiming the latest surprise in a long history of unusual revelations.
Jesus is not on stage yet, but the dramatic tension is rising. The people, and we as well, are called to trust the off-stageness of the Promised One. The people in exile, the people listening to the Baptist, we listening to both, all are called to re-pent or return to our being held by the ever-loving and faithful God.
Our hearts have hands in a way and we easily tend to reshape gifts into little gods and those hands and grasp these gods for life-support. This is a wonderful time of year, of preparing to give gifts and receive as well. The people of Israel were in exile, because they had forgotten the gift of their being God’s holy people and their city a holy place of God’s presence. We need Advent to remember what’s what and what’s not. The “off-stage” voice of the One Who is to come is what will get things straight, will fill in the empty valleys and level our mountains of defensive fear. To allow this, we trust the call, the unusual, and the new of Jesus’ coming. We need these Advent moments to check out our little heart-hands and see if there is any room in those hands for our receiving the new Surprise.