2nd Sunday of Advent B

Offensive linemen are the unsung heroes of football.  Mischaracterized because of their large size, they are statistically the most intelligent people on the field.  And their movements, so easily perceived as simply brutish, are deceptively agile and athletic.  [Don’t worry.  I think there will be a homily in here eventually.]

For example, there is the guard who is occasionally asked to “pull.”  This means that instead of blocking the man right in front of them, they actually move laterally around the end and block for the much faster running back following him.  And whether they know it or not, they are on a mission from the Prophet Isaiah to make mountains low, the rough ways smooth and “the rough country, a broad valley.”

The second thing I know about a pulling guard is that they are not famous or bask in glory.  I cannot tell you the best pulling guard in the NFL although it is clear he does not play for the Jets or the Giants.  But I can name the best running backs who are only successful because of the guard.  What they do is necessarily for the team, the other.  They do not want the spotlight pointed at them.  So you see, John the Baptist was a pulling guard preparing the way for Jesus, removing the obstacle from his path and widening the hearts of his listeners who would follow the one mightier than he.  To be a disciple, we must do the same.

Our parish makes a straight path to Jesus in a hundred different ways.  I hope you were among the hundreds of people who came to our fair trade sale on Saturday, buying beautiful goods from around the world and changing the communities that produced those goods.  We fill in valleys with our service to the poor, our compassion and our education.  We make a highway for our God when we celebrate the word and receive the sacraments.  But today I would like to challenge you to prepare a way that is not as familiar to all of us.  I would like us to tell our story of faith.

This is something we do not embrace or think of often as Catholics.  (However our Evangelical brothers and sisters do this quite well.)  But how will people know the way to Jesus unless we show it to them?  We each have a story to tell that is rich in blessing and grace and whenever we have the courage to tell it, we may unlock the spiritual hunger of others.  We are not imposing when we tell our stories for it is never wrong to tell a story of love, of peace, of joy.  And it might be just what they want to hear.

John the Baptist did not impose.  Indeed he left civilization to tell his story and people were so compelled they came to him.  Indeed, John the Baptist is a great model of faith sharing.  We do not need to dress in camel hair and eat grasshoppers, but we can follow in his way.  First, he certainly told his story in his own style.  No one could doubt the authenticity or realness of what Joh had to say for it came from the heart and with conviction.   Secondly, he stubbornly held onto the truth; even telling truth to power.  There is something about the truth that cannot be unheard.  It rings too clearly in our soul.  And finally, the story was not about him.  It was as far from an ego trip as possible.   It spoke of hope in what was to come and when he saw it in John’s Gospel, he literally pointed at Jesus and said, “Behold the Lamb of God.”

We can do at least that.  We can tell our truth our way from our heart.  And we can hope and pray that it does not lead to a revelation about us, but about the one we follow.  We can and have counted endlessly the reasons for the decline of faith:  secularism, science that leaves no room for the divine, consumerism and a grasp of only the now.  But this rough country may still be made a broad valley once we show others the way we got to Jesus and how they may still arrive there.  God has given each of us a way to deliver the good news of our life.  Funny people have funny stories, sweet people have sweet stories and DRAMATIC people have DRAMATIC stories.  But they will all serve the purpose. Be a pulling guard for the Lord and make straight the paths to Jesus.