2nd Sunday of Advent (B); 12-10-17
Is 40:1-5,9-11 Ps 85 2 Pt 3:8-14 Mk 1:1-8
Deacon Jim McFadden; (New) Folsom Prison
In today’s Gospel, we once again hear proclaimed the person of John the Baptist, who plays a prominent role in Mark’s Gospel. Who is this very eccentric guy with whom most of us would have difficulty in identifying? His clothing would not make any of the fashion magazines: he’s wearing a camel hide coat “with a leather belt around his waist” to hold it in place. He’s living in the desert—he’s basically homeless. And, his culinary taste are bizarre as he feeds on locusts and wild honey. Bon apatite! Put bluntly, he has made himself an outsider of his own society.
The question is Why? In proclaiming and recognizing Jesus as the Messiah, he knows that Jesus will turn the world on its head—that there will be a great reversal of values. The Good News that Jesus will proclaim will call us into a new situation, a new set of circumstances where our old assumptions are questioned and not tolerated anymore. We have to be willing to see with a new set of eyes. We have to be willing to embrace that path; we must let the Truth, who is Jesus, into our Mind, Heart, and very Soul. We must let the Truth in if we’re going to be converted to the Way.
Like John the Baptist, we have to take a step back from the dominant culture of our society and make ourselves an outsider to see how much of its secular, self-referential values permeate our lives. Have we been seduced by our culture? Have we accepted the way of consumerism, dominative power and control, status and prestige as being normative? Do we think that unbridled pleasure will lead to the good and happy life? How much have we absorbed or are affected by these cultural values?
The dominative consciousness gives rise to a False Kingdom, which must be deconstructed. What does it look like? Several years ago, Pope Francis stated that the world has become “a throwaway culture when money not human beings is at the center of society. At the center of every economic and political system there must be the human person, who is made in the image of God. When the person is displaced and the god of money arrives, then we have the inversion of values…When that happens, economic systems must make war in order to survive. Thus weapons are manufactured and sold and, in this way the economic system sacrifices human beings at the feet of money. …An economic system based on money also needs to plunder nature in order to sustain its own frenzied pace of consumption, which has devastating effects on climate change. Brothers and sisters, Creation is not a possession we can dispose of as we please and its certainly not the private preserve of a few; but, it is a gift, it’s a previous present that we are meant to be stewards” (Pope Francis at the World Meeting of Popular Movements; October 28, 2014).
2000 years ago John the Baptist extricated himself from this kind of cultural illusion. He stood on the side and believed the Truth, who is Jesus, and pointed to him, the Lamb of God, who shows us the Way back into the world. In his liberation, John proclaimed that “I have baptized with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Mk 1:7-8). John started the process of conversion and Jesus completed it with a baptism for the forgiveness of sins. Brothers and sisters, forgiveness is absolutely necessary within the Kingdom of God! Within that context, forgiveness is the beginning, middle, and end of Jesus’ teachings. But, it’s so difficult to accept: the betrayals, disloyalties, untruths, rejections get more and more difficult to forgive as we get older. To let go of our hurts and resentments is hard.
And, it’s even more difficult to forgive ourselves. To forgive the dark and shadowy part of ourselves; to forgive that part of ourselves that does not live what we preach. It’s difficult to forgive that part of our personalities that we just don’t like and we’re afraid that if people see the real me, they won’t like me either.
During Advent we have the opportunity to step back, examine what and Who rules our hearts, to examine what values guide our life, and to forgive and change. Once we accept the alternative teachings and consciousness contained in the Good News, then and only then can we risk going back into the world. No longer will its false promises have a hold on us.
How wise of Holy Mother the Church to create these four weeks of Advent to extricate ourselves from what can be a hectic season to focus on how well we live the Good News. We prepare for and celebrate Jesus’ historical birth as a manifestation of the way in which we renew and rebirth Him in our very being and then carry that incarnate presence into the world. Amen.