April 26, 2018, 7:30 pm
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A voice that moves fellow pilgrims

THE beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”

John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.

John was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He fed on locusts and wild honey.

And this is what he proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

***

The Second Sunday of Advent directs us to discern our identity and mission as a pilgrim Church in the world. We are to regard life as a pilgrimage and ourselves as pilgrims on the move. There are times when the journey is light and bearable, but more often we find ourselves restless and burdened. We easily get distracted by the lures of the world. We get confused by the many choices that come our way and get lost in the lifestyles that run counter to Christian values and beliefs. At the end of the day’s journey, we often feel pained and broken.

Today’s liturgy counsels us that our journey in this world could—and should—be transformed into a journey of faith. God’s glory does shine forth through the crucial circumstances of our life’s journey. He guides every step we take, and in the unchartered courses of our pilgrimage he provides us comfort and strength.

To infuse the faith dimension in our earthly journey, St. Peter (Second Reading) reminds us to accept and embrace the Lord as our faithful companion, as a co-pilgrim. The Lord shows “generous patience” in handling our missteps and hard-headedness, on our adamant will of not following the road map he has laid out for us. In fact, he makes sure that none of us “perishes” or “strays” out of the fold. Our God is a compassionate companion who leads us to “greener pasture.” He blesses every step of our journey and because of this, “one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like a day.”

Both the First Reading and the Gospel point to John the Baptist as the example and model in achieving our identity and mission as a “pilgrim people.” John the Baptist sees his mission “as a voice that cries out to prepare the way of the Lord.” “Proclaiming a baptism of repentance” and the “forgiveness of sins,” he exhorts his followers to “follow the way of the Lord and clear him a straight path.” For us pilgrims and travelers today, this sense of mission should provide us with the energy and zeal to prepare the Lord’s way. It should give us the second wind to travel anew when the walking gets tough. And in all seasons of the year, a mission-driven life of faith offers all of us pilgrims the capacity to adapt and adjust to the challenges that come our way.

Moreover, John’s personal traits remind us how we are to relate to the Lord Jesus himself. In all honesty and truth, John admits that “one more powerful than he” is to come after him. John is “not fit to stoop and untie [the Lord’s] sandal strap.” John realizes that his whole mission is all about the Lord. John is but a precursor, to prepare the way for him. John is but a voice; Jesus is the center—the very Word.

John the Baptist challenges us today to encounter the Lord Jesus in faith and to embrace him as the center of our personal and communal life. Our journey can easily become unfocused, confused, without a center. Our faith in the Lord Jesus is the voice that brings us close to our core and to our calling “to be holy in conduct.” Confronted by the center that is the Lord, we could not but feel unworthy and unfit to “stoop and untie” his sandal straps. John the Baptist is a model par excellence of a pilgrim prophet. 

The last challenge of our pilgrim status is to become compassionate with our fellow sojourners who are lost and marginalized, who are poor and overburdened, broken and unable to journey any farther. In solidarity with them, we provide the hand and heart, the face and soul of God’s mercy and compassion.

***

Msgr. Manuel G. Gabriel
(Dec. 10, 2017)
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