“Towards the encounter” Advent
2nd Sunday of Advent – Year C
In this second Sunday of Advent, the journey towards this life-changing encounter, which will have a humble cave as its stage, continues.
The main character of this Sunday and the next one is John the Baptist, a living icon of the whole Old Testament, the man who prepares the way for the coming of God. His main characteristic is that he is an “eccentric” person, for his diet – he used to eat grasshoppers – and his clothing, almost like so many strange people we meet in life.
But John the Baptist is different, because his openness to novelty has its roots in the concept of justice and freedom of the Jewish tradition, of which his life choices are an outward sign. If we do not go through the figure and the baptism of John the Baptist, if we do not “get to the bottom” in the water, we cannot meet Jesus.
In this text we find seven names, of emperors, pagan rulers, religious, politicians, all characters that we will find in the Passion of Jesus. They are the powerful of that time, those who make history. In this history, of which we must bear the burden, the Word of God “falls,” but in creation, made up of two elements: the desert and the river.
The desert, which recalls the exodus, the trial, the pilgrimage, and the Jordan River, is a sign of the promised land. The Word takes place in creation, in a scenario of desolation and in another one of hope, in a cry and in the search for light. The Word does not fall in the palaces of the seven characters mentioned, but in the place of extreme poverty, in the place of silence where man finds himself a creature because he needs everything. There is where trial and temptation are experienced.
A baptism is proclaimed on the Jordan. Plunging in the depths, dying, recognizing the limit. We are human, “humandi,” that is, “to be buried,” humble.
In baptism, however, what also comes out of the water is a desire for life beyond death. Sign of hope, desire for infinity. We are the image of God because there is this desire in us.
In baptism there is an awareness of the limit and the desire to overcome this limit. But both of these things require a conversion from our sad passions. Life has to turn, it has to “run” from the illusions that have distanced us from God, in the garden of Eden.
What are we destined for, since our creation, when we have been placed in Eden? God created us to “cultivate” a garden, which today we have made an arid desert, because we do not accept our limitations and consider ourselves rulers of creation.
Within our limits, as Saint Francis says, we must live “cum grande humilitate,” we must recognize ourselves as “all brothers,” creatures in communion with all other creatures. In our delirium of omnipotence, however, we find ourselves terribly alone.
John the Baptist announces this radical conversion to “escape” from this loneliness, from the sadness of not accepting us as children. Radical conversion that we like to define as an “ecological conversion,” in the sense of “integral ecology,” in all our relationships, between men, with creation, with God, with ourselves.
We need clean relationships, straight paths. John the Baptist uses the words of Isaiah, spoken in Babylon and dripping with tears and pain, because that captivity was caused by the sin of the Jewish people, unlike the Egyptian one. It was possible to get out of that exile, and prepare the way. A straight, comfortable way, trying to fill in the abysses of despair we have, the peaks of our delirium.
As Saint Clare of Assisi says, “Yes, because it is now clear that the soul of the faithful man, who is the most worthy of all creatures, is made by the grace of God greater than heaven. While, in fact, heavens with all other created things cannot contain the Creator, the faithful soul on the other hand, and it is alone, is his abode and stay, and this only because of the charity, of which the wicked are deprived. It is the same truth that states: ‘The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him; we will come to him and make our dwelling in him'” (FF 2892).
Listening in the desert leads to seeing. Every person, as he is, will see God’s salvation. Salvation is for all people, despite his frailty. How beautiful it is, even in our everyday deserts, to walk towards the cave of Bethlehem with this hope! Happy second Sunday of Advent!