JOHN THE BAPTIZER APPEARED IN THE WILDERNESS
(A biblical reflection on THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT, 4 December 2011)
Gospel Reading: Mk 1:1-8
First Reading: Is 40:1-5,9-11; Psalms: Ps 85:9-14; Second Reading: 2Pet 3:8-14
The Scripture Text
The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, Behold, I send My messenger before thy face, who prepare thy way; the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And there went out to him all the country of Judea, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camels hair, and had a leather girdle around his waist, and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, After me comes He who is mightier than I, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. (Mk 1:1-8 RSV)
Have you ever noticed how important a role the wilderness plays in the Bible? The children of Abraham spent forty years wandering in the wilderness until they learned to trust in YHWH. Jeremiah prophesied that all those who survive the word of Gods judgment will find unending grace in their times of wilderness (Jer 31:2). Even Jesus spent time in the wilderness, praying and fasting in preparation for His public ministry (Mk 1:12-13). It seems that if you want to get close to the Lord, you will encounter the wilderness at one point or another.
What is our wilderness? It is our old life of sin and separation from God. It is that part of us that remains wild and untamed, not yet surrendered to the Lord.
The good news that we are preparing to celebrate at Christmas is that we do not have to wait until we have tamed the wilderness before we can come to Jesus. In fact, it works the other way around. We need to let Jesus in first, and then our wilderness will be gradually transformed.
Just as John the Baptist invited people into the wilderness to receive his baptism, so Jesus is inviting us into the wilderness in our lives. As we enter those darkened, wild places, we may be surprised to see Jesus right there, waiting for us. He is in those places where we feel the most barren and unattractive, offering us His healing and restoration. He is there, ready to clear away the brush, turn the burning sand into a lush garden, and fill the empty landscape with every possible good fruit.
Our sins are already forgiven. Jesus has already paid the price. All we need to do is run to Him on that crooked path and ask for His forgiveness and healing. He will make our path straight. This Advent, let us take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where we can experience forgiveness in a concrete way. Know that as you confess your sins and are assured of Jesus forgiveness, you will experience Jesus refreshment and be able to start anew.
Short Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You that You are ready to step into my wilderness and clean it up for me. Thank You for Your love and Your mercy. Help me to be more aware of my sins, so that I may bring them to You and know Your forgiveness. Amen.
Daily Marriage Tip for December 4, 2011:
John (the Baptist) appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Mk 1:3) In any marriage, hurts are inevitable and there is reason to forgive. It may not be major, like a sin, but often small, like a pinch. Is there anything to forgive today?