2nd Sunday of Advent (Mk 1:1-8) “A Dangerous Land for a Dangerous Man” PDF Version
Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Advent, Year B (2017): Mk 1:1-8
Christians have been making pilgrimages to the Holy Land since the birth of our Church at Pentecost. As Christianity spread beyond the city of Jerusalem and the nation of Israel, many of those Christians who have never seen the sites of our Lord’s birth, life, death and resurrection desired to visit the Holy Land and walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As pilgrimages became more prevalent, there began to arise differing opinions and traditions as to where certain events in the Life of Jesus of Nazareth took place. Among them was the site of His baptism in the Jordan River by his cousin St John the Baptist.
One tradition placed the site of our Lord’s baptism to be near the southern most part of the Sea of Galilee, where the waters of that great land bound sea begin to flow downstream towards the Dead Sea, forming the southern portion of the Jordan River. This portion of the Jordan River is surrounded by lust vegetation, choruses of song birds, and fish and otter like creatures peacefully swimming in some of the deepest and widest portions of the River Jordan. It is a truly tranquil place and has become a popular site for many to be baptized or undergo a renewal of the baptismal promises that were made for them as infants.
The other alleged site of Our Lord’s baptism is the complete opposite in terms of topography and serenity. It is found near the Dead Sea, where the River Jordan is reduced to a stream perhaps 1 metre in depth. It is surrounded by some tall grasses that cling to the river’s edge, but by in large the surrounding landscape is desert, with a few trees and low lying bushes to offer vegetation in the otherwise arid land.
This believed site of our Lord’s baptism also resides on the border between Israel and Jordan, meaning one must pass through security check points, bared wire fences and armed soldiers to touch the waters of the River Jordan. A noticeable and unsettling feature of this place of baptism and salvation is warning signs telling you that to venture beyond the security fences is to walk into a live mine field that stretches along the border of Israel and Jordan!
While no authority, either Church or Civil, has ever declared one alleged baptismal site to be the true place of Jesus’ baptism and the baptisms of many men, women and children by the St John the Baptist, I am inclined to believe that the desert site, surrounded by land mines and the harshness of the Judean Desert, was the place that The Precursor of the Messiah called many to repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
It was a dangerous place for a dangerous man. When standing before the shallow waters that gave a glimmer of life in an otherwise harsh and death filled land, you can imagine John spending long excruciatingly hot days preaching and baptising, and bitterly cold nights finding warmth in desert caves. It was in this dangerous land that he lived on a diet of wild honey and locust, remembering friends that this meant John, a man born into a privileged family of priests, growing up in the upper echelons of Jerusalem, was now living in total poverty, eating grasshopper like creatures with probably a touch of honey to dull the otherwise bitter taste of desert insects.
But far more dangerous than the land he lived in was the message John was commissioned by God to proclaim. It was the Baptist who was to shake God’s people from their complacency and comfort in sin and reinvigorate their longing for the long awaited Messiah. The People of Israel had great hopes that a Saviour would one day come, but when you wait for your deliverer and redeemer for many centuries, the urgency surrounding his advent into the world can dissipate and one can become comfortable in the idea of a Messiah without doing much to really prepare for his arrival.
The same can be true of many Christians. We can live our Christian lives in such a way that we believe the Second Coming of Christ to be an important and monumental moment in salvation history, but since it has been around 2000 years since Jesus ascended into heaven, we can go about our lives in such a way that we rarely, if ever, think about the fact that He will return and that if we have not heeded the Timeless call of St John the Baptist to repent for the forgiveness of sins, we will be caught woefully unprepared for the end of days when the world will know the fullness of that Baptism in the Holy Spirit that The Baptist proclaimed would be offered by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Although St John the Baptist was a dangerous man, in so far as would shake you out of your complacency and compel you to do your utmost to prepare yourself for the long awaited Messiah, it was worth walking this path of danger he called many to tread. Men like John, James and Andrew made the long journey to the Judean wilderness to become followers of the Baptist until He would show them that He was but a Voice Crying Out in the Wilderness to prepare the Lord of the Way, pointing out to them one day Jesus of Nazareth, the Lamb of God, when He would arise from the waters of the Jordan and John would humbly acknowledge how truly great He was, and that those who had followed him must now walk alongside Jesus, The Son of Mary, himself a dangerous man who walked a path that most feared to tread.
Advent compels us to consider whether or not we have taken seriously the call to heed the call of dangerous men like St John the Baptist and above all others Jesus Christ, and to daily walk the dangerous paths they lay before us? Jesus has to ability and right to greatly inconvenience our lives if we truly want to be his disciples! But He will do so only because of the great love He has for us, in asking to do more for His Church and the salvation of this world, or reminding us that we are not yet finished with walking that path of repentance and forgiveness because of the many sins we continue to commit.
St John the Baptist now reigns in heaven for having been faithful to Christ to his dying breath. May we ask him to intercede for us during this Advent and all the days of our life, to have courage to walk the dangerous path, never tiring of seeking God’s forgiveness and ever vigilant for His return in glory.