Gospel of Mark 1:1-8
A voice cries in the wilderness
The beginning of the Good News about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in the book of the prophet Isaiah:
Look, I am going to send my messenger before you;
he will prepare your way.
A voice cries in the wilderness:
Prepare a way for the Lord,
make his paths straight,
and so it was that John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. All Judaea and all the people of Jerusalem made their way to him, and as they were baptised by him in the river Jordan they confessed their sins. John wore a garment of camel-skin, and he lived on locusts and wild honey. In the course of his preaching he said, ‘Someone is following me, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals. I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’
For John the Baptist’s unwavering teaching, he was imprisoned and executed. John preached the truth, pointing to Jesus as the centre and meaning for existence. He did this with true humility ‘I am not he’ – his selflessness enabled others to encounter God. We are also called to this right ordering of relationship with God. To praise God and serve others by getting our own ego out of the way so that others can encounter God in freedom.
From his prison cell, Alfred Delp SJ wrote about John the Baptist as the personification of Advent. He describes John’s cries to prepare for the coming of the Lord from the depths of solitude as reminding us of what is real. Alfred Delp SJ was imprisoned for opposing Nazi Germany. Condemned to die, he wrote his prison meditations on Advent (on bits of paper with his hands bound) finding inspiration in John the Baptist. John provided a path toward authentic and faithful living in a society that was full of self-deception. Like John before him, Alfred was a voice in the wilderness calling humanity to wake up.
Mary Ward was also persecuted and imprisoned. While in prison in 1631 she wrote secret letters in lemon juice to her companions that encouraged them to keep faith and hold to the truth. Today over 400 years later women still have to cry out against the inequality that she experienced.
On this second Sunday of Advent I am drawn to ponder, what voices in the wilderness are crying out today that need to be heard?
What is the truth I need to hear? What is the reality in my society and world?
Can I accept the challenge of preparing a way for others to encounter Jesus, even if it leads to persecution?