03 December 2011

BREAKING THE SILENCE OF GOD

2nd Sunday of Advent
Mk 1:1-8

          Today is the second Sunday of Advent.  In my series of homilies, I started this season by emphasizing that Advent, while it is indeed a time of intense preparation and vigilance for the coming of the Lord, is first of all a proclamation and celebration of our unwavering hope in the Lord.  Last week, the first Sunday of Advent, I said, hope funds our waiting.  We prepare for and are vigilant about the coming of the Lord precisely because we hope that the Lord, as the case always is, would fulfill His promise to come.  He already came on Christmas day; He will come again at the end of time.  Thus, with hearts filled with hope, we wait for the Lord.  And when we wait for the Lord, we recognize our incompleteness.  Moreover, all we can do is to wait for the Lord, for we cannot hurry Him.  Thus, when we wait for the Lord, with hearts filled with hope, our waiting becomes a prayer that testifies to our poverty and to His greatness.
          Having understood already that Advent is a season of hope, we are now in a better position to consider it as a time of waiting, for, again, it is our waiting that our hope funds.  Just as there is no life without waiting, Advent tells us that we also need to wait for God.  Do we really wait for God
          John the Baptist is a waiting figure.  Like a watchman, he waits for the revelation of the Promised One, the Lamb of God who will take away the sins of the world.  But he does not withdraw into the desert only to sit and passively wait for the Messiah to appear.  On the contrary, God’s word consumes his whole being, calling not only him to live an hermitic life but also to preach to the people of Israel a call to a radical change of heart.  In a fiery fashion, John urges the people to prepare for the coming of the Lord by repenting from their sins and amending their ways.  In response to his call, the people go to him to be baptized at the River Jordan.
          Before John the Baptist appeared, God was silent for a very long time.  After the death of the last of the writing prophets, God’s voice could not be heard in the land and the Jews took that silence to mean that the spirit of prophecy had been quenched and only by the echo of His voice could God be heard.  For them to “hear” God, the Jews would remember God’s proven fidelity to them in the past.  By doing so, they re-live the past, making it, as it were, present again.  As there were no prophets, God spoke to His people through their sacred memory.  Suddenly, a voice in the wilderness broke the divine silence: it was John the Baptist, through whom the words of the Prophet Isaiah in the first reading today is seen to be fulfilled. 
Through John, the silence of God was ended, the spirit of prophecy was alive again, and people discerned the living word of God in him.  Through the word of God spoken by John, people gave their own word to amend their lives.  John the Baptist did not only break the silence of God, therefore, but also set aflame a new light in the hearts of people who, through groping in darkness created by their sins and weaknesses, continue to hope for the coming of the promised Savior of the world. 
John the Baptist reminds us of a special time of personal renewal, a blessed chance for a new beginning, an opportune moment when people can aim themselves again at a life of fidelity to God who Himself is always faithful to them.  That special time, that blessed chance, that opportune moment is Advent.  John the Baptist is an Advent figure.  We cannot go through the season without mentioning his name, reflecting on his person, and learning from his mission.  He is God’s voice to a world thirsting for His word.  Can we be like him?  Even as we ourselves are responding to the call of ongoing conversion of life, can we serve as agents of positive change in the lives of others?  Do we remind them of the fresh start that God is offering them unto a life more faithful, more fruitful, and more fully in Him?  Can ourselves be that new beginning in the life of someone who needs a new start very badly?  Can we be the voice of God to those in the wilderness?
Advent is a season of hope.  Hope funds our waiting.  Advent is a time of waiting.  Why wait when there is no more hope?  Advent is supplying hope to the hopeless.  Sometimes, as in the days before John the Baptist appeared, God is deafeningly silent to others.  Are we willing to break that silence?  If we are, may our word be always Jesus.

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