6 Months ago I started a new job. On my way to work I stop at the corner of route 29 and route 198 in Laurel. In this particular spot there is a man who stands with a sign which states he is unemployed and that we will accept any help we can provide.
As I was reflecting on the person of John the Baptist, I found myself going back to this man and to the different feelings he has caused on me throughout the last 6 months. I remember the very first time I saw him, I felt like just getting out of my car and offering him my help. Of course I could not just abandon my car in the middle of the road, so I had to sit there and stare at him feeling helpless, trying to figure what could I do. As the weeks passed I started looking at him with suspicion - especially when I noticed someone else with a similar sign on the other corner of this intersection.
Pretty soon I started to feel a bit angry at him, since people who stopped to give him some money were causing me to miss my turn adding time to my commune (I remember I told myself, here I am the one with a regular job been made late to work by the unemployed!) Well after six months of this, I’m ashamed to admit, I just feel indifference towards him. In fact, I have noticed that other drivers (I assume they are regulars like me, on this busy intersection) have trained themselves to not even make eye contact and just ignore him. Helplessness, suspicion, anger and indifference; all these feelings just from a man standing in a corner, holding a sign.
I think it is very proper that in a time of the year in which we are busy and stressed with the million little tasks we need to complete before the “Big Day”, in today’s Gospel, John the Baptist appears standing against the traffic of our busy lives as a voice, “Crying out in the desert”, reminding us what this season is all about: “A time to change the direction of your lives, to straighten our paths, to smooth our rough ways, because the Lord is near”
In this Second Sunday of advent, John the Baptist is our man on a corner, holding a sign, asking us how are we doing with our preparations for the coming of our Lord.
The questions we should be asking ourselves today are not if our houses are ready, or are all the presents wrapped. But, how does John makes me feel, when I hear his call from the desert. Do we feel helpless because although we would want this season to be different, we see ourselves time and time again buying more, wanting more, wasting more? Are we suspicious of his words, thinking that although it might be nice to refocus our attention in the coming of the Lord, that is the sort of thing which only religious nut jobs and old ladies do? The sort of things me and my family do not appreciate? Do we feel anger at the implication that our way of celebrating Christmas is not the right way? Anger at the implication that our way of life is not the right way of life? Or are we just indifferent, even perhaps numb, at his message to refocus our attention to what is important this season? Refocus our attention into Christ and his coming, and not into having the taller three, the most Xmas lights, the biggest presents.
The good news is that helplessness, suspicion, anger and indifference are just feelings, and as feelings they could be overcome by our will, with the help of God’s grace in our lives, which we receive through the sacraments..
So as we enter this second week of advent, it is up to us to look into ourselves and decide that instead of helplessness this year we will be hopeful that the Lord will truly be born in our hearts, instead of suspicion we will be confident of the promises of our Lord, instead of anger we will love those we encounter, and instead of indifference we will make an effort to appreciate this time we have been given to prepare and receive the Lord like he deserves, with a humble spirit and a joyous heart.God bless you all.
NOTE: Many people have asked me what happened to my daily compute friend. After I preached this homily I make the point of stopping and talking to him. I gave him my card and told him that if he needs any help he could call me and I can make him contact the proper Catholic charities which will be able to help him. I ask you to say a prayer for this man so that he takes advantage of the help he so much needs.