daily biblical sermons

Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Sunday, 2nd Sunday of Advent, December 04, 2011
Isa. 40:1-5, 9-11, Ps. 84, 2 Pet. 3:8-14, Mark 1:1-8

"The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight" (Mark 1:3).

John the Baptist was this voice crying in the desert, "Prepare the way of the Lord." He was sent by God to prepare his people for the coming of their Messiah, Christ the Lord. John the Baptist is still preaching in the desert, and during Advent we go into the desert to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ, and there we hear his voice, which helps us to prepare ourselves. His words, the place in which he chose to preach, and his way of living in general all have meaning for us and help us to morally and spiritually reform our lives.

John left all to live only for God in the desert. He even left civilized secular clothing, and dressed like the prophets of old in a hairy mantle (Zech. 13:14; 2 Kings 1:8)-"Now John was clothed with camel's hair, and had a leather girdle around his waist" (Mark 1:6). He also left the food of the civilized and secularized world, and ate in a very distinct way, "locusts and wild honey" (Mark 1:6). He literally left the world and lived in the desert, apparently living a solitary life, for that is where we find him when God called him to preach-"The word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness" (Luke 3:2). In fact, "he was in the wilderness till the day of his manifestation to Israel" (Luke 1:80).

John sought God in the desert and lived for him with all his being, preparing in the desert the way of the Lord, first in his own life, and then among his people through his preaching. And when he began to preach, "there went out to him all the country of Judea, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins" (Mark 1:5). John is the prototype of the eremitic, monastic, religious, and celibate life, while at the same time also being a model of apostolic life, preaching to the multitudes the salvation of God.

It is John who is given to us today to help us to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ, for his Parousia on the clouds of heaven with glory and great power. Both his words and his example-his very way of life-help and inspire us, showing us the way to prepare ourselves for Christ's coming. "Know that the Lord is coming and with him all his saints; that day will dawn with a wonderful light, alleluia" (antiphon, first vespers, First Sunday of Advent). That day is already beginning to dawn. "The night is far gone, the day is at hand" (Rom. 13:12). So what should we do? "Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light" (Rom. 13:12). This is a call to a thoroughgoing moral and spiritual reform of our life. This is what John the Baptist is calling us to do. "Let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires" (Rom. 13:13-14).

John the Baptist is our great model and inspiration for reforming our life. He radically altered his own life, literally and physically leaving the world, as monks, his followers, also do. They too are models and an inspiration for us in this. They too literally and physically leave the world and live in cloisters or monastic enclosures. Like John, they too abandon the clothing of the civilized secular world-symbolizing their abandonment of its values and ways-and wear habits. For priests, this means clerical attire, a form of dress quite distinct from that of the world around them, as their whole way of life should be. This is the dress of a man of God, recognized everywhere by everyone, and is as much a help, reminder, and inspiration to themselves as it is a witness of God and of a holy way of life to all who see them. Like John, monks also leave the food of the civilized secular world, and eat very simply, without meat, delicacies, or seasoning if they are living according to their own monastic ideals-only for God. This simple, plain monastic food is their locusts and wild honey.

In the desert John could purify himself from the desires of the flesh and the sins of the world to be pure and without stain before God at his coming. Thus his preaching had great power, backed up as it was by the radical example of his life. How many today are seeking a more spiritual, purer life, more filled with God, more interiorly illuminated by his light? Many today say that this is the main thing they are now seeking.

Then they must live like John, renouncing the ways, clothing, food, and lifestyle in general of the civilized and secularized world around them. This is going into the desert. This is the necessary context for a life of prayer. One must literally live only for God in every aspect of his life. One must also practice custody of the mind and spirit-as well as of the eyes-and exclude many harmful things, such as television with its commercials, movies, and novels, all these with their worldly, mind-and-spirit-corrupting, pleasure-and-ego-centered philosophy of life. This means, in one way or another, going into the desert to prepare the way of the Lord, to make straight his paths. We must lift up every valley and make low every mountain and hill, make the crooked straight and the rough places plain (Isa. 40:3-4).

We are to live in light of the Parousia of our Lord Jesus Christ, for he shall come with all his holy ones, and on that day there will be a great light. In light of this, we ought to live "lives of holiness and godliness" (2 Pet. 3:11). "Since you wait for these, be zealous to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace (2 Pet. 3:14). "Let us cleanse our hearts for the coming of our great King, that we may be ready to welcome him; he is coming and will not delay" (antiphon, office of readings). As you wait for all this, may our Lord "establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints" (1 Thess. 3:13). May we be prepared when he comes, using well our time in the desert with John, a time of purification and prayer, for "behold, the Lord will come descending with splendor to visit his people with peace" (entrance antiphon, Fridays of Advent).


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