Ever since the first time I had to prepare a homily for the Second Sunday of Advent, Cycle C, I have been caught up in the words from our first reading from the prophet Baruch. This is because the words go a bit beyond what we hear from Isaiah during this Advent season: “For God has commanded that every lofty mountain be made low, and that the age-old depths and gorges be filled to level ground (italics mine).”
For me, there is such power in those words! God, through the prophet, promises that no obstacle, no matter how unsurmountable it may appear, cannot be overcome! There is no wound, no matter how deep and how long we’ve been carrying it, that cannot be healed!
Dare we let ourselves believe in such promises? There are times when we believe it can happen for others, but not for us. We think the barriers are too great, or the wounds too hurtful. But if we listen to Baruch, looking to that day when the exiles would return to Jerusalem, we, too, can look to be reconciled with God and with each other!
This is what this reading has spoken to me over the years. But I have to say that at this time in history, I have heard something else from these words. Not only do I hear comfort and assurance, I hear a call to action. Perhaps not only has God commanded that the lofty mountains be made low and the age-old depths and gorges be filled in for us, God is also calling us to work at leveling the lofty mountains and filling the age-old depths and gorges. Let’s be clear. I am definitely not talking about changing the physical landscape. Too much of that has been done already. What I’m talking about has to do with justice and peace.
In a time when division and animosity seem to be the norms, we are called to take down the barriers (lofty mountains) that we put between ourselves or that we build to hinder the progress of others. As I was watching the PBS News Hour the other day, Former Senator Tom Harkin spoke about what he heard the day President Bush 41 signed the Americans with Disabilities Act: “Let the shameful walls of discrimination come tumbling down.” We are called to help heal the wounds of racism, sexism, and all other forms of discrimination, and also the wounds of exploitation of the earth (age-old depths and gorges). We are called to help stop the bloodletting that seems to persist in our world.
It seems to be too much to ask, doesn’t it? We would feel like John the Baptist, like “a voice of one crying in the desert.” It might seem that no one is in the mood to move towards reconciliation. But there are people who are interested. And could we not join together, in the words of our second reading from Philippians, in “partnership for the gospel,” even with people of good faith who may not even believe in the same gospel?
Could this work of reconciliation, justice and peace be, again to quote St. Paul, the “good work” begun in us, which God will “continue to complete…until the day of Christ Jesus?” Like the people who listened to John the Baptist, we are called to repentance, knowing that our sins can be forgiven. And we can work for a time when the worst of our social sins will not be repeated.
May we open our hearts and prepare a straight path for Jesus to enter and heal our wounds, as deep as they may be. And may His love for us impel us to help, with the grace of God, heal the wounds that are afflicting all of us.
In Christ Who Is to Come Again,
Fr. Phil, CP