2nd Sunday in Advent A

They went out to the desert.  They went out and they kept coming.  They came from all over.  They came to see a wild figure who was addicted to the truth, whose mouth could form in no other way but to cry out the truth.  They came though he pulled no punches.  The Pharisees and the Sadducees came though they knew they would be excoriated.  Others came to nowhere because there is always an attraction to the truth whether we want to hear it or not.  It is always pulling at us for we recognize ourselves always in the truth.  John was preaching a word that was good, true and challenging.  And they went out to hear that they were a brood of vipers, or that they must repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand or that an even mightier one is to come.  And still they kept coming.

No one left an encounter with John the Baptist without knowing two things.  First, things needed to change; they were not as God wanted for as Isaiah prophesied in the first reading, the poor were not judged arightly and justice does not reign.  They were a far place from that holy mountain where the wolf is a guest of the lamb, the baby plays in the cobra den, Democrats and Republicans can talk civilly and Red Sox and Yankee fans live in peace.  Secondly, we need to change ourselves to make that possible.

And we are not in that kingdom now.  If we are honest with ourselves, we know that the poor are not judged arightly, that justice does not reign.  We need to go out to the desert again and hear words that challenge, words that are true and good.  We must see the things that must be changed and we must be changers.

And how can we not go into that desert when Pope Francis challenges us to be missionary church that looks to make Jesus’ name known everywhere.  He wants a Church that looks first to the poor for in only in service and justice can the Gospel be understood.  He wants a Church that is bruised and dirty because it has gone into the street and pursued a ministry of reconciliation and welcome. 

And how can we not go out to that desert on this weekend when we mourn Nelson Mandela, who fought for change his whole life and, when he had the opportunity, he did not choose domination, he had seen enough of that, but a nation that shared its beauty and bounty among all people.  When they took him away from his family and took everything else away, he decided that could not force him to hate so he build a county built on reconciliation and truth that was always tempered by mercy.

So let us be responsible for building this holy mountain.  And it must begin with the Church.  After all, I don’t think all of society is going to be reconciled by the Gospel of Jesus Christ until the Church is since the Church has no other task than to do what Jesus tells us.  We cannot be a church of exclusion and a Church of reconciliation at the same time.  We must accept all who come upon our mountain, no matter how they come to us, from where they have come, what they have done or the choices they have made.  If the cow and bear will browse together, our Church must be a safe place for all, rich and poor, gay and straight, single married and divorced.

If there is to be no harm or ruin on this holy mountain, we cannot let anything divide us.  It would be shameful if for all the progress we have made in being fair to all races, though it is far from perfect, if he would let other things divide us.  We cannot let economic differences become the new divide so that rich and poor live in different worlds.  We cannot let the competition in our education system divide us by who gets better grades and we cannot let the lonely, the anguished, the emotionally or mentally impaired feel anything less than wanted because we are not a peaceable kingdom until they are here.  And when they come, we will see all those divisions melt before the power of the word of God and promise of the bread of life where we stand as one status, the only one that matters:  as children of God.

This Advent season, let us turn to justice.  Let us build a place of such harmony that all would know they belong and feel the comfort of the body of Christ.  And this Christmas, a little child will lead us.