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Select Homily
December, 4 2017

Second Sunday of Advent (B)

Dr. Susan Fleming McGurgan


A voice in the desert cries,“Prepare the way for the Lord!”


So often, when the Word of the Lord comes to us, it arrives—not from the obvious or easy places; not from places with valet parking and professional landscaping, but from the brambly edges and forgotten margins. The Word often comes to us, not carefully wrapped or beautifully presented, but with a starkness or a simplicity that can sometimes deceive us.  

 Today, that Word emerges from the desert, proclaimed by a rough man in a hair shirt who eats locusts and honey. But if that particular messenger is too bizarre or too uncomfortable, then the Word can also be found in the womb of an unmarried girl; in the lives of stumbling, sinful people; in the death cries of a condemned man; in the echo of an empty tomb.       

 The messengers that God sends to us often speak, not from places of triumph and success, but from places of ambiguity, conflict or pain. They speak from wilderness places, where the borders between life and death, success and failure, hope and foolishness can become blurred.

 A voice in the desert cries,“Prepare the way for the Lord!”

 Yet, somehow, we’ve come to believe that our own witness--our own work of calling people to the Lord, can only be effective when our lives are decorated with designer bows and gleaming with perfection. We wonder: how can I proclaim the Good News when my own world is such a mess? Who would believe me? I’d sound like a hypocrite!

And so, there are days when the witness that we want to give, the words that we long to say—the healing words, the inviting words, the reconciling words—stick deep in the back of our throats, or remain stubbornly silent, too elusive and too uncertain to be spoken aloud.

 Yet, this week reminds us that we are invited, not just to hear the call of John, but to echo that call with our own lives. The Gospel will continue to be preached by people like John—fearless prophets destined for a special mission. But the Gospel must also be preached by people just like us, who struggle everyday to find the right words to speak and the courage to speak them.  

 The Word must be proclaimed by men and women who discover that God can be found not only in triumph and success, but along the brambly edges and in the middle of the desert.  God’s invitation must come from people who can say, “Here we are, Lord, use us. Not because we are glib, not because we are smart, not because we have power or authority or position, but because you have chosen to place your Word in broken and empty vessels.”

 God’s Word will be preached by men and women who have the courage to say with Mary, “Let it be done to me according to your will.”

 A voice in the desert, joined by the sound of many voices, cries, “Prepare the way for the Lord!”

 (c) Susan Fleming McGurgan

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