The Lord be with you… and with your spirit. Yes, that is the one response that all of us are going to struggle to learn in the next year. It has been followed for as long as most of us can remember another, not to be named response, so as not to continue our confusion. It will take time, but we will get it. The Lord be with you… and with your spirit. Amen.
When I hear the scriptures we just heard of “a voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths’ (Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11; Mark 1:1-8),” I immediately think of two things. The first is Advent, it means no more than four weeks to Christmas. The second is the old question of ‘If a tree falls in the forest, and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?’ This is very important to consider because the scriptures today have a lot of crying out in them. But, if they are crying out to no one, or no one prepared to hear, do the scriptures make a sound? Is grace being wasted?
The answer begins with the Prophet Isaiah today who says “Comfort, give comfort to my people” (40:1). Take a moment to think of a time someone comforted you. What happened in that exchange? What were your emotions? What was their response? Did they have a lot to say or were they simply present to you and listening to you? When I think of being comforted, it is usually a lot of me talking and very little said in return. I think that often the best form of comfort is to listen. In the Letter of Saint Peter we hear “that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years” and I think we can all attest to how quickly time passes, especially at this time of year (2 Peter 3:8-14). And when we are in need of comfort, when we are in distress, isn’t it nice to slow down, have someone listen to us, and recollect ourselves?
I think I’ve said it before in a youtube video, but if you remind yourself once a day that “listening loves God” you will find yourself better able to hear, better able to comfort, and better able to be comforted.
God is always crying out, like a parent who has lost her child to a thief in the night. When we sin, we separate ourselves from God. We put noise between God’s voice and the ear of our heart. God’s crying out so we can tune in clearly, not one decimal point off the channel so we get static. Sort of like that catchy tune on the radio now I think God would say to us: “My heart's a stereo. It beats for your, so listen close. Hear my thoughts in every note. Make me your radio. Turn me up when you feel low. This melody was meant for you. Just sing along to my stereo.” If that’s true, and I think we believe it is, why don’t we listen more? Why don’t we listen and sing along?
Let’s go back to our tree in the forest. Does it make a sound? I think it does. Yes. But, just like with God, someone needs to tune in, someone needs to get close, to hear it. The liturgical seasons can be used to renew us in a number of ways. Often repentance is at the top of that list somewhere. Advent in particular gives us words such as wake, watch, prepare, rejoice and I would like to add listen. This coming week we have an Advent reconciliation service on Tuesday and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on Thursday. Reconciliation is a time for us to be comforted. We list our sins and God listens in a very real way. On the feast of the Immaculate Conception, we focus on Mary, a woman who sung God’s song like no other. This week and Advent season, with the new revision of the prayers for Mass, is a once in the lifetime (or maybe twice) opportunity for us to listen in to God’s invitation and God’s own catchy melody. Let’s not hit snooze or turn the channel. Let’s be there when the tree falls. A voice cries out in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord. The Lord be with you… and with your spirit. Blessed be God forever. Amen.
Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11; Psalm 85:9-10, 11-12, 13-14; 2 Peter 3:8-14; Mark 1:1-8