Easter 1986 I was preparing to enter the Desert Retreat experience as a novice of the Society of the Divine Word. The retreat location was St Benedict Abbey in Covington Louisiana. The day before leaving was Easter morning and I rose early to serve a private Mass with Fr John Horseman, SVD. I knew Fr John since High school at Divine Word Seminary in Perrysburg, Ohio. That simple Easter Mass changed my life. I was struggling with my discernment to be a priest or a religious brother. We discussed the matter during the homily since it was just the two of us. I knew I wanted to be an SVD (Divine Word Missionary) but I wasn’t sure how I’d live my state in life. I entered Novitiate as Brother candidate. Fr John had encouraged me to utilize the desert retreat and reflect on the Eucharistic prayer II and let the Holy Spirit guide me. The desert experience is where God spoke to me through a wise priest and the Eucharist. The guidance in that small chapel in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi began the journey to embracing the call to be a priest. In just a few months I will celebrate 30 years as a Divine Word Missionary priest. That desert experience God used to prepare the way for a lifetime of prophetic priestly service.
It may seem strange that in the second week of Advent preparing for Christmas we find ourselves listening to the scriptures of John the Baptist in the desert calling people to repentance and preparing the way of the Lord. In John the Baptist we see the big picture. Although we celebrate Christ’s birth at Christmas, but Advent is a time of preparation for His return. That preparation takes on reconciliatory nature to Advent. Although not fully in the sense of Lent, but our seeking to live in a new way strengthened by God’s grace does have its place in our Advent Journey as we too enter the spiritual desert seeking the Lord and His ability to speak, change and shape us for His purpose of being proclaimers of the Good News.
From the Prophet Isaiah we here of proclamation that:
On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:
a spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
a spirit of counsel and of strength,
a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
This message is one of hope for Israel and for us. Jesse the father of David is the instrument through whom God will fulfill His promise to His people. Jesse of Bethlehem brings forth the bud that blossoms in the coming of the Messiah. The anointed one of the Lord in whom God’s Spirit rests, a spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength and knowledge. In Advent we recall God’s fulfillment yet we also in our waiting seek to allow this same Spirit to have an effect on our lives. That this proclamation is made new to us in our active waiting and participation of God’s plan of salvation for all of creation.
This too becomes our hope as an Advent people. God comes to bring forth a kingdom of justice and peace. More than anything else Advent is a time of hope. Our hope comes to us from God’s Word and is realized in Jesus Christ. This message of hope encourages us in our daily journey in
1Peter 1:3 and 1Peter 3:15
* Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Peter goes on to remind us:
Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope,
John reminds us of this great hope in the promise of the coming of Christ. Through the power of the Holy Spirit a new Baptism that places fire in our bones. A fire that has the ability to renew the earth and to transform the desert from a place of death to a valley of hope. Allow the burning fire of God’s Spirit to fill your hearts with a deep and renewed desire to stand for justice, to proclaim liberty and freedom and the welcome all at the table. The marginalized, the poor and those on the peripheries to a transformed life through the Hope and Power that Christ. COME LORD JESUS COME!