[By popular request, really one person–thank you Fr. Juan Manuel, the blog comes back to ‘before the weekend’]
The gospel for the Second Week of the beautiful season of Advent (Mark 1:1-8) takes us to a very significant place. We read the beginning of Mark’s gospel—a gospel we read this liturgical year—a gospel that begins in the Desert (which I am writing with capital d.) The Good News does not begin in the Temple, or in any other center of power and notoriety, but in a place where there is nothing.
The desert also echoes the experience of a People—our ancestors—who wandered through it for a whole generation before reaching the Promised Land. Our Promised Land is Jesus Christ, and Advent takes us to the desert to teach us that we have to start our pilgrimage to encounter the Jesus of Christmas precisely there.
The desert was the place where the discontent went, as well. It was the refuge for those who were in disagreement with the way society worked. We focus on one of them, John the Baptist, whom we will talk about next week (but allow us to advance that, in short, John is not Jesus, and we often look more like disciples of John than disciples of Jesus.)
Advent finds us before the desert. Advent finds us in a place where there are many valleys to level, many paths to make straight. The task in this Second Week of Advent is to look at ourselves and at our closest reality and see how much it does not resemble the desert. There is so much noise, so much unhealthy interaction, so many worries, so little prayer; in summary, so many bumps—a whole mass of total distraction. We can begin—as always—by looking at our relationships; then we can check our habits; even the physical state of our spaces (while I write this, I look at my room or my office, too much stuff everywhere.) In that area, I do need a lot of emptying, even physical, that will become a symbol of the spiritual emptying necessary to take the road to the desert.
If Christmas is going to mean anything this time around, we have to quickly find ourselves on the road to the desert. It is another of the invitations of Advent. A simple, but challenging one. In the emptiness of the desert, Jesus may find space to come and influence us.
What will you do, desert-wise, this Advent? (Please, use the comments to reply, it is not a rhetorical question.)