Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As we heard last week that the Lord’s house is on the highest mountain and all things shall stream towards it. Is that true for us? Is the Lord’s house the highest priority in our life or is it just one of many mountains? It is a good question to ask in Advent. Are we waiting on the Lord, hoping that he will come to me today or are we waiting to see our plans for the day or what’s for lunch or how the games will be this weekend?
The desert would help us to answer this question since nothing can pretend to be what it is not in the desert. The absolute silence exposes our real intentions and nothing can be taken for granted. In this silence we hear only a voice, and the first word from the voice of John is: repent, turn around, turn away from the attitudes that define you and come back to the mind of God. The Greek word literally means to turn around, some thing or better, some One is here. He is not just another prophet but a King, the king of heaven.
John the Baptist makes himself like a desert so that we can encounter Christ. John is only a voice that announces the coming of the Kingdom. A seminary has often been compared to a desert. The men studying there, in some places, had no money, no phone, no real contact with the outside world and this helped them to turn to God and to see that they often were going in the wrong direction. Seminarians who have this type of experience more often than not mature and learn to do things that will be quite helpful as priests.
Some learn an instrument and teach others to sing and take part in a liturgical celebration. Some even learn to give talks about really important issues like being a Christian in today’s world, or the state of the Church in the last fifty years and what is its mission. Most learn how to be sincere and speak of their own personal struggles and realize that they are not alone.
There was an article in the paper this week about a study concerning causes of suicide in the military. The study showed that the roots of these tragedies were not only caused by their military experience but had to do with issues in their childhood. Well, no surprise there. Everyone has issues from their upbringing (and this will only increase as the traditional family continues to break down) and probably the most important way to deal with them is to speak about them in a non-judgmental, faith-based setting. And to hear similar experiences from others and to have the wisdom to discern that maybe our issues are not a mistake, and God uses these events to speak to us and to help us look for him. In desert experiences we can learn a lot.
Even the Pharisees and Sadducees went out to see John; maybe they went out for the wrong intentions but John invited them to turn around. He reminded them and us that real evidence of a change of heart is good fruit, which means reconciliation, forgiveness, generosity, peace, strength in the face of difficulties, etc. These are the true signs that a person is sorry for their sins and is repenting from their mistakes. This is what the Lord is looking from us this Advent. Don’t miss the opportunity to be in silence where we can more easily see our true self and see God’s merciful love for us no matter what mistakes we made.