It is said that God calls us in the most unconventional, most inconvenient time. Moments when we feel we have yet to attend to something important like a business transaction, or enjoying a long vacation with family away somewhere. In the case of St. John the Baptist, it was when he was enjoying his solitude in the desert, when the word of God came to him. (Lk. 3: 2)
When God calls, something grinding and active is to be expected. So then, after a quiet time in the desert, John has to face again the noise of life and the challenges expected of being God’s follower. John knew then that the burden was quite heavy to carry, as he was tasked to prepare the way of the Lord. It wasn’t an easy task as he is an important part of God’s unfolding plan of salvation. He would be crossing paths with powerful men and women, and John has a choice: to accept or reject God’s call. It wouldn’t be easy and it would be life-changing. To some they would not accept it, to others, they would accept it reluctantly for fear of God. Still others do it because they see it as destiny. But to John, he just did it. He just acted on it. His understanding of his role in God’s plan of salvation was revealed to him clearly in the desert and was too strong to resist. It was for a life more than the ordinary. God’s call was just more important than life’s worries and problems.
In this Advent Season, God has asked us to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. The Lord wants us to get involved with His work. When God calls, it is our duty to respond positively. Being our God and creator, He has dominion over us all. However, we can’t hear Him in the noise and chaos of life. God can’t be found in noise and restlessness. We can only hear Him in the silence of the wilderness of our hearts. We can only find Him in the quiet and solitude of the desert, in the mountains, as Fr. Armand refers to it in his latest writing, ‘Stay, Wait and Pray’. We need to have deeper silence and aloneness with God.
In my early years as a knight of the altar, summers were filled with activities that make us long for its coming. Seminarians would come to spend summers in the parish and organize concerts, seminars and ball games too. In one such summer, one of the songs that was taught us is the one popularized by the off-Broadway musical Godspell, ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord’. This song captures the imagery of John the Baptist’s call in the prophecy of Isaiah,
“A voice of one calling in the desert;
‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.
Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ ” (Is. 40: 3)
Do we hear the call to prepare the way of the Lord? Is our life so noisy that we need a desert experience to hear God’s invitation?
May the Lord invite us to the desert of prayer to hear His call, that we may know Him better, hear Him better, and love Him more and more.