3rd Sunday of Advent - Cry Out in the Desert

Listening to Advent Readings, we hear rumblings about the end of the world, threats of judgment, and impassioned pleas for conversion. We hear talk of repentance, reform and forgiveness. We are warned to be ready, to be waiting, to be prepared. But the central message of our Advent is that the Lord has already come, He has put an end to our fears, He has taken away the curse of our sins, He has baptized us in the Holy Spirit, He has comforted us. He has come like a good shepherd to gather the lambs in His arms.

We are not waiting for God's promise of redemption to be fulfilled. Rather, we are supposed to be living as people who have experienced the incredible goodness of God... people who have been baptized into Jesus Christ and share His life... and as people who walk toward him - not in fear - but with joyful faith. Miracles continue to take place around us because of our faith, because of our common commitment to Jesus and His Gospel.

Through us, our brothers and sisters are able to put away fear, to move from darkness to light, to begin to hear again the words of life. We can reach out to support those whose hands are feeble, whose knees are weak. Because of Christ-within-us, so many who were crippled by doubt and despair are able to leap again with courage and energy and new life.

The challenging, prophetic voice of John the Baptist echoes across the centuries to be proclaimed as our catchword for this Third Week of Advent: "Make straight His way." Our God is the God of life, abundance, deliverance and joy. That's the Good News that consoles us, challenges us, gives meaning to our celebration of Christmas and purpose to every single day we live and serve as followers of Jesus the Christ.

We gather as people of faith in a holy season of hope, preparing for another year of liberation. So the voice of fear is drowned out for us by the voice at Isaiah the Prophet: "Be strong, fear not! Here is your God; he comes with vindication!" The voice of John the Baptist cries out in the desert, reminding us that we, too, are to prepare His way. And finally, it is the life of Jesus that reassures us: the brokenhearted are healed, liberty is brought to the captives and prisoners are set free.

The Lord, our God, a mighty Savior, is in our midst. That is the one reality that answers all our needs and dispels all our fears. But we have to believe! We have to make ourselves aware of that presence all the time. When and if we accept the fact that "the Lord is in our midst", then everything changes - for the better. We see and feel His presence in all of the ordinary events and circumstances of every day.

Our presence in the world must be the same kind of sign. Our lives must proclaim the same miracles of love, of healing, of reconciliation. Our goodness and compassion must touch those who are blind and deaf to the Lord. Our mercy and acts of service must free those who are crippled by pride and hate.

The Scriptures are meant to be experiential. Everything we read about in the Old and New Testament and all that it symbolized in belonging to God's people and sharing in the divine life is bestowed, not just as information, but as experience. If we stop at mere instruction, we have missed the main event. The lessons and symbols of God's Word reveal the graces that are being offered for the healing and enhancement of every level of our being.

The kind of openness that we bring to this Advent season is the key to understanding the Christmas/Epiphany mystery and to receiving it. And the message is this: We belong to the universe and to the God who created it. We belong to the God who is within us. We belong to the human family in which God lives and manifests Himself.

The spirit of Advent is the realization that we cannot be happy without a relationship with this immense Mystery - which transcends all things and yet which deals with us in an incredibly personal way. The grace of Advent penetrates the inadequacy of all appearances, and we come to realize that there is nothing we can do, except to wait and to offer our longing, too deep for words, to God's infinite compassion.

Advent is not just waiting for a feast. It is waiting for God, waiting to be reborn, waiting to be transformed.