Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11
“The word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert”-------what an unlikely opening verse for the preparation of Jesus’ public ministry! Luke had just named all the important people (both political and religious) in that historical period but none of them received the word of God. Why then John, a relatively strange and unknown man, was called to be the herald instead of the emperor, the governor, the tetrarchs or the high priests and why in the desert instead of the more populated Jerusalem or Rome? The appearance of John the Baptist in the liturgy on the Second Sunday of Advent reminds me of two things. First, that time and again God chose unlikely people and unlikely places and second, my own prophetic role as a baptized Christian.
John was only made known to us through the promise of the angel to his father Zechariah (Lk 1:5-25), yet he stood as a pivotal figure----the hinge on which the age of the law and prophets was closing and a new era of grace and redemption was about to begin. Likewise, though it was the least favorable place to evangelize, the wilderness was a place of transformation, a place of shelter from the world’s allurements. It was the place where God had shaped His chosen people and formed the nation Israel, a place where solitude and barrenness opened the human hearts to the Lord. Do not think that one has to be prominent or of great influence in order to be chosen by God. Indeed He prefers to "bring down the powerful and lift up the lowly" (Lk 1:52). He chose David, a young lad to be the King of Israel and Mary, a lowly maiden to be the Mother of God. He chose a manger to be His birth place, a cross as a saving instrument and His earthly ministry began in Galilee, a Gentile territory (Mt 4:12-25).
It is one thing to be chosen, but quite another to promptly fulfill the call. Like fire in the heart and bone (Jer 20:9), John as a prophet “in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Lk 1:17) could not resist the divine compulsion to proclaim God’s word (cf 1 Cor 9:16), even to the point of becoming the first martyr (Mt 14:1-12, Mk 6: 14-29). The core of his cry was for people to repent and to reform their lives. It was a call to get ready and to make preparations for the coming of the Messiah by turning to God and returning to His way. Do I, as a baptized Christian, have such fervor to tell people the necessity of repentance and help them remove any obstacles that stand in the way of the Lord? Am I capable of directing them to the right path so that they can be released from the pattern of sin? Can I be a light in the darkness for them to seek out the way to the Lord so that their hearts are opened and cleansed for His comings both in flesh (Christmas) and in glory (Parousia)?
Perhaps in order to be able to fulfill this prophetic role, I must first begin with my own repentance and reformation. Like John, can I separate myself spiritually by choosing not to participate or follow worldly affairs or habits but fill my life with things that matter to God’s kingdom? Do I need to repair holes in my life and clean up the mess that I may have made in my past? Do I have the courage to ask for the Lord’s forgiveness and the determination to start anew? I believe only until then, when I have straightened my own crooked paths and smoothened my own bumpy ways, would I be ready to say as Isaiah said, “Here am I, send me!” (Is 6:8) and become the true herald of God when He so chooses.