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Monday, November 28, 2011

“Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’” (Mark 1:2-3)

Second Sunday of Advent

SOUL-SURFING – December 4, 2011
Second Sunday of Advent
Mark 1:1-8
Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC

The gospel passage we hear today details specifically the mission of John the Baptist, the one of whom St. Mark writes, the one whom the evangelist announces to be the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah: “Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’” (Mark 1:2-3)

And even as we hear the familiar passage, it invites our reflection upon those more contemporary figures who have “prepared the way of the Lord” in our own lives, those whose prophetic words and heroic actions have opened our hearts to the one who, though surely already with us, comes once again in powerful revelation.

A blog I discovered recently offers moving testimony to just such a person, a young woman who, by her sacrifice and in her final earthly message, bids us open our hearts anew to the deepest experience of love. As “a voice of one crying out in the desert,” she comes into our own lives this day bearing the eternal truth that took flesh in Jesus: I love you! You must always remember that I love you!

“This is a true story of a mother’s sacrifice during the recent Japan earthquake. After the earthquake had subsided, rescuers reached the ruins of a young woman’s house. They could see her battered body through cracks in the rubble. Her pose, in particular, captured their attention, for she was kneeling like someone who was worshiping. Her body was leaning forward, and her two hands were clasping an object. The collapsed house had fallen upon her back and her head.

“With great difficulty, the leader of the rescue team put his hand through a narrow gap in the wall to reach the woman’s body. He was hoping she might yet be alive. However, when his hand reached her, he found her cold and stiff.

“The rescue team left her house to begin searching the ruins of the next collapsed building. For some reason, though, the team leader was driven by a compelling force to return to the dead woman’s house. Once again, he knelt down, and now squeezing his head through the narrow crack, he reached beneath her body to the object she was cradling.

“Suddenly, he screamed with excitement, ‘A child! There is a child!’ The entire team rushed back to the scene and, pulling aside chunks of ruins, they carefully removed from beneath the dead woman her 3 month-old child wrapped in a flowery blanket. Obviously, the mother had made the ultimate sacrifice to save her son. When the house was falling, she used her body to protect him.

“The little boy was sleeping peacefully as the team leader picked him up. A medical doctor was summoned and came quickly to exam him and, opening the blanket, saw a cell phone tucked inside. There was a text message on the screen. Meant for her child, it read, ‘If you survive, you must always remember that I love you.’

“The cell phone was passed around from one hand to another. Everybody who read the message wept. ‘If you survive, you must always remember that I love you.’” (Paraphrased from Lokesh Goud’s September 24, 2011 blog)

“A child!” screamed the team leader with excitement. “There is a child!” For us Christians, Advent is that sweet time of anticipation, the weeks of waiting for something wonderful to come – indeed, for someONE wonderful to come, Jesus, the savior. Yet Advent is also that time of sweet remembrance as wonderful people of past and present come to mind, people who were to us as gift from heaven. Yes, this is the time of tender images, of mother cradling newborn son in a humble manger, of angels singing joyous praises of God’s glory, of a singular star casting beams of hope upon a dark world.

But we must not allow Advent to forget the earthquakes that engender heroic sacrifice. The tender image of mother and child depicted in seasonal displays is but the beginning of the story. It ends, we know, as violently as did the life of a Japanese mother sheltering her newborn from death. Yes, the joyous mother and son of Christmas too quickly become the sorrowful mother and son of Good Friday.

It’s the balance we must seek, as from within the deathly shadows of a tumbled house, a young mother delivers Jesus’ promise to a tumbling world: “You must always remember that I love you.” Yes, we remember the promise no earthquake – in Japan or on Calvary – can diminish or erase.

And so we pray to the Holy Mother of Bethlehem and Calvary that, during this harried season, she might bring our hearts to rest on things eternal and invisible:

“Mother most admirable, guardian of the interior life, we ask you to loosen our grasp on visible things and help us to see the invisible which your eyes behold: the invisible life, the invisible action, the invisible love, all those realities of faith that are for us eternal values.

“When we get lost in the devouring activity of the visible and often not so important things, keep us in the light of the unseen and make us strong as though we beheld the invisible.

“Above and beyond accessory trifles that concern us, that burden our minds and hearts and distort our scale of values, give us, we ask you, a hunger and thirst for the essential: the wish of the Lord and the work of his love to which he has called each of us. Amen.” (Mother Marie-Therese de Lescure, RSCJ)

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