2nd Sunday of Advent C

On too many Fridays, Deacon Tom and I have to make a truly terrible decision.  Some heartbreaking event has happened somewhere in the world. Should we include it in the Prayer of the Faithful?  Of course we want our prayers extended to those who died in tragedies like in San Bernardino and we will.  But what about other places around the world where the tragic is a daily occurrence?  What about Iraq?   Sudan? Congo? A thousand other places where the loss is the same just further away.  And I think of the local tragedies – four killed in Albany and an unsolved arson just a couple of miles from here that took four lives, but seems to fade into the background without a compelling story line attached to it.  Should they be mentioned, remembered?  Sometimes I feel we should simply recite every week the haunting prayer of the funeral rite:  “Every day people die by violence, war and famine.  Show your mercy to those who suffer so unjustly these sins against your love.” In your mercy, Lord hear our prayer.

There is something infectious in these horrible actions.  Their darkness seems to connect to the darkness we hold within us.  We feel powerless and alone.  It touches our own feelings of inadequacy and uselessness.  We cannot imagine a single way we can change the course of these events, nor can we figure out how to change the course of our own life.  We surrender our hope, our belief that things can change.  Only one word describes this state of affairs:  despair.

John the Baptist came about in a desperate time in the world.  But he did not muzzle his call for justice and his message of hope.  He shouted that things could and indeed would change.  Come here he said for your sins can be forgiven and you will wash away your guilt in the waters of the Jordan.  Let us make the crooked ways straight for the corrupt are more agile on the winding road while the just seek a straight path.  Make every mountain and hill low and fill in every valley so that even the weakest may arrive safely at the kingdom of God.  And above all, prepare the way of the Lord, the Messiah, the beacon of hope.  There is a light about to dawn to dispel the darkness.  That is the hope John the Baptist preached in the desert.

Yet, as we heard from Isaiah, he was but one voice crying out in the desert.  That would not seem to be enough.  A solitary voice crying out in the desert should land harmlessly in that vast, arid expanse.  But it did not.  Someone heard it and believed it because we all have a hunger for the truth.  Someone followed him and the voice only grew stronger.  Someone else heard and went to the city and proclaimed what they had found in the desert.  And the lonely voice echoed through the land.  And they came in throngs to wash their sins away, to rejoice in the truth and to hear of the Messiah who would turn night into day.

In the light of the mounting problems of the world and our own struggle to be understood and to understand ourselves in the midnight black, we withhold our voices.  How silly and useless it would be to speak, like a voice crying out in the wilderness.  Or how can we speak loudly enough to be heard over the din of the city or through the privacy of the suburbs.  But if it is a voice of peace, a voice of justice, a voice of love, it is the voice of the Christ of whom John the Baptist preached.  And it will be heard, and repeated, and sung and change the world.  Then maybe when they speak of the one voice crying out, it will not be a single plaintive voice, but a choir of soaring harmony singing the Alleluias of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.  In a year of mercy, we could be that voice.  A wearied world would bend its tired ear and hear the truth of peace, blessing and hope emanating from us.  How could that not be change the world?

This past week the Daily News had a classic Daily News headline that stirred much conversation.  In response to the prayers offered by politicians for the victims in California, the headline blared, “God is not Going to Fix This!”  I have another take.  God has already fixed it.  We are merely waiting for the voice of the Savior to ring out peace with a clarity that cannot be ignored. We will need to root out the violence and fear in our own lives and trust in the mercy of a God whose love is never-ending.  We need only to cry out with every oppressed person, every forgotten and hated person and every lonely person that God’s love will triumph, and all will see the salvation of our God.