Those of us in southern California know about the desert, which can be reached within three hours from Los Angeles. A landscape where life is reduced to a scale and number which can be shocking at first; there are no towering pine trees, wide expanses of grass, deer or bears in the Mojave Desert. But while the desert on first glance may seem, well, deserted of life, a closer inspection reveals a land awash with life often hidden and miniscule (small animals, cacti, and brush). But, for most of us, the desert is seen as a wasteland, devoid of life, so how odd that today’s readings from Isaiah and the Gospel of Mark refer to the desert. What does the desert have to do with one’s Advent journey to Christmas?
The first reading from the Book of Isaiah describes a time of healing where the Jewish people have returned to God, leaving behind sin. God is shown as revealing his power bringing life to even the wasteland of a desert. The Gospel of Mark reminds us of John the Baptist, who preached in the desert, called people to repentance. So what do these has to do with us? Deserts can not only be physical spaces but also emotional, relational or spiritual parts of our lives where the death of sin, egoism, anger or jealousy dominates.
Who is the person that I cannot stand to be around? The relative that drives me crazy? Or am I jealous of a neighbor who has ‘more’ that I do? Sin is always like a mirage in the desert (i.e. the glistening lake on a hot summer’s day) enticing us with a vision of power, freedom, pleasure or happiness and, like a mirage, once we dive into it we discover it is nothingness. Rather that freedom or happiness, sin leads to frustration, guilt and enslavement rather than the freedom which God offers all of us.
Both readings remind us in this Advent that parts of our life are in need of conversion, desert like, and we are called to change (turn around) and re-center our life on God. But this is not a gloom and doom message but one coupled with trust and hope- our God is a God of power who can bring us back to fuller life, to reject sin, to embrace God more fully and to love others. Perhaps during this week take a few minutes and ask God to bring us closer to God and grant fuller life to our family, friends, co-workers and our world. While the Corporate Media wants to bombard us with fear and anxiety, today’s readings teach us that we can change and that our hope is in God’s love.
Have a wonderful Advent week and remember God is not just an observer of creation but constantly involved, drawing all life to wholeness and love. Also remember the Mission Doctors work in bringing wholeness and love to the suffering poor in the Third World.