By Sr. JonFe de Torres
For The Catholic Messenger
Full disclosure; I am not a theologian nor a Scripture scholar. This reflection was based on my experience and observations as a person trying to love God with all my heart and soul and with all my strength, and trying to love my neighbor as God asked me to.
Two things struck me in the Gospel selection for the second Sunday of Advent of the current liturgical year. The messenger and the message.
John the Baptist appeared in the desert and proclaimed repentance for the forgiveness of sins. According to the narrative, people of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem went to him to be baptized. I imagined that not all people who came to see him were impressed. A lot of them probably came, out of curiosity, but eventually were convinced by his message and acted accordingly. They experienced a change of heart. This is the message of Advent. Come and listen. In quiet anticipation, we are creating an opening for the grace of the season to penetrate our hearts.
These are challenging times. News is traveling faster and broader because of technology. There is also a lot of misinformation. How do we sift through the news, the messages and the information that come to us each day?
How we process information and how we educate ourselves on current events in our immediate community, in our society and in the world affects how we communicate, act and react. What is the message of our current time and situation?
The Gospel from Mark presents John the Baptist in a very specific way — how he was dressed, his diet and what he was doing. I wonder what gave John the courage to do what he did. I think it was his constant attention to God. He lived intentionally, solitarily and simply. These elements opened him up for the grace that he needed to fulfill his mission effectively. John is a credible messenger for our time. He lived knowing who he was and his mission. We are all called to be prophets like John. When we listen and respond to the promptings of the divine within us, we are responding to the prophetic call.
For me, this is what the season of Advent is about. To make time to be quiet, alone and to listen. Many reflection guides are available and they help us to focus. In addition to meditation or prayer guides, we can set aside time, it doesn’t need to be long, even just 10 minutes, to listen to the voice of God residing in our hearts. Tone down all the noises, the worries and concerns. Is this not the purpose of the Incarnation: that we know that God is one with us?
Jesus, God’s son and our brother, was born and lived among us. Our task is to know that God lives in us and is manifest in us. This is the message of John the Baptist: turn away from the things that keep us estranged from God. Advent is a beautiful time of quiet hope and joyful anticipation. For me, the message of Advent is hope. As we spread this hope around us, in effect we are becoming a message of hope.
(Sister JonFe de Torres, OCD, is the acting prioress for the Discalced Carmelite Nuns.)