The Voice in the Wilderness (Mk 1:1-8)

10th December 2017

When the second Advent candle is lit today, more light is shining through our church, our chapel or through our house.  If we imagine more light streams through the darkness of a night, the contours of the surroundings become clearer for us to see the way that leads to the desirable destination.

John the Baptist in today’s Gospel reading can be seen like a brighter light showing others the way and giving them a vision for the Light of the world. He is the voice in the wilderness that gives way to the Word. If we hear a voice that does not make a meaningful sound it is simply useless. However, a voice that has a meaning provides us with a new understanding and enlightens our mind. More importantly then is to see John the Baptist calling in the wilderness with powerful conviction in the words of the prophet Isaiah:

Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’ (Mk 1,3)

What is important in preparing the way for the Lord? John the Baptist serves us in this Advent season as an example of a radical openness to the Word. His life was marked with simplicity, embracing God’s providence in everyday life, and the empting out of all noise and distractions. The wilderness was his place to prepare, to hear God’s voice and to respond to his mission. Do we have a place of that wilderness in our daily life or such space planned within a year? John the Baptist’s preparing the way of the Lord led him to the recognition of his littleness before the One who comes –

‘I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the strap of his sandals.’ (Mk1,7)

His littleness is realised in the identity he takes: ‘I am the voice of the one calling in the wilderness.’(Jn 1,23) This voice is an instrument in God’s hand to make his Good News known to everyone. John by being that voice, that means of articulation, prepared the way for the Word of God to be heard and making a powerful impact.

The invitation of Advent is to make oneself little, empty for the Word to come like Mary whose heart was fully prepared for him. She was, in the words of Carol Houselander, a reed “through which the Eternal Love was to be piped as a shepherd’s song. She was the flowerlike chalice into which the purest water of humanity was to be poured, mingled with wine, changed to the crimson blood of love, and lifted up in sacrifice. She was the warm nest rounded to the shape of humanity to receive the Divine Little Bird”

John the Baptist’s voice and Mary’s reed were emptied so that they could be filled with the Eternal love. ‘It is emptiness like the hollow in the cup, shaped to receive water or wine. It is emptiness like that of a bird’s nest, built in a round warm ring to receive the little bird’ (Carol Houselander). It is now a good time to become that voice, that reed ready to receive and ready to give.