Sunday, December 4, 2011

Second Sunday of Advent Cycle B December 4, 2011

HOMILY     Second Sunday of Advent   Cycle B         December 4, 2011

Today in the Gospel we meet the strange and wild character of John the Baptizer.  He is dressed funny: wearing a camel’s hair suit and a leather belt.  Some of you may have a camel hair jacket.  I have a leather belt.  John’s culinary tastes are even stranger: he dines on locusts and wild honey”.    What is that all about?  An early version of Andrew Zimmern and the “Bizzare Foods” program on the Travel Channel?   I don’t know.
            What intrigues me is his location, where John is at.  Where does he show up?  Anyone remember?  Mark tells us John the Baptist appeared in the desert.”     The desert?  What desert?   The Negev?  The Sahara?  The Mohave or Sonoran desert?    Mark just tells us “the desert”. 
            John appears proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 
That is the clue to the desert where John appears. 
            It is not a physical desert, where life struggles because of a lack of water, like we have seen in the drought in Texas this year.  That is bad enough.  But the desert where John appears is far, far worse, and much, much closer to us: in our own hearts.  Because, this is a spiritual desert: a dry, barren waste, where life struggles because of a lack of spirit, of justice, of forgiveness, of love. 
            Wherever there are dry, barren, hard places in our heart, places that are empty of life and love, that is the desert where John the Baptist appears.
It is a desert of hard, barren earth made sterile by bitterness, by envy, by prejudice and pride.  It is a land filled with the scorpions of lust, the prickly cacti of revenge and hate, and snakes full of the venom of greed and hard-heartedness.  It is a barren waste lacking in honesty and integrity, chastity, and honor; where virtue is all dried up and listless, like dead, dried-up bones on the sand. 
            It is that desert where torture is acceptable as a means of national policy;  where services for the poor, the sick and the elderly are cut while the expenditures on armaments grow and fester;  where cheating is considered normal;  where teen-age girls feel that they have to dress like tramps to get attention and where young men are told that being cold and uncaring means strength. 
          It is the wasteland where gossip is sought and prized; where greed and consumerism are extolled; where indifference and self-centeredness are the order of the day.    Indeed it is a barren, lifeless, onerous place.
            It is into this desert, the desert in our hearts, that John the Baptist appears, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 
            In this Advent, right here and now, John the Baptist appears in your heart.  LISTEN!  Do you hear it?    A voice of one crying out in the desert:  "Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths." !!!     John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.   
            Repentance is like a life-giving spring in the middle of the desert, refreshing, soothing, healing, bringing life and joy.  Repentance cracks the hard soil of indifference and fear, and allows life to grow again in integrity, compassion, generosity, service and love.
            That is what we look for, what our deepest, truest selves yearn for.   St. Peter in our 2nd reading today instructs us:  “But according to his promise we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”    
                No longer a desert, no longer a barren wasteland, our hearts will be “ a new heavens and a new earth,”  blooming and fruitful with righteousness.   St Peter urges us:  
“Therefore, beloved, since you await these things,
be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.”
            Repentance and conversion are how we prepare for the coming of the Lord.   Not at some time in distant ages or in some exotic land far away, but here, now, right inside us.  
His coming will be glorious, for the dry, barren places in our hearts will then blossom with righteousness and joy!  
Come, Lord Jesus! 

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