Meditations by Msgr. Liptak


Msgr. Liptakweekly gospel meditations



Simplicity and Prayer in Our Lifestyle

Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11; Second Peter 3:8-14; Mark 1:1-8


Aim: (1) to describe the desert as the place of simple pioneer, quiet, prayerful living,- (2) to encourage preparing for the Lord in our desert.

Today's Advent readings-all three of them-focus on the absolute necessity of our readying ourselves for the Christ-event by penance and contrition. And this message, prophesied by Isaiah of old, echoed by St. Mark, in the first written Gospel (Peter's Gospel, in a sense, since Mark was Peter's companion and scribe) is summed up in the person and preaching of John the Baptizer.

Baptizer often seems preferable to Baptist. Our Bible translations give both. In contemporary English, the izer nouns are frequently more active than the ist nouns. Baptist can sound rather passive. There was nothing passive about Zechariah's son; he was fiery zeal personified.

And so was his preaching. "Make ready the way of the Lord," he proclaims. "Clear him a straight path."
John's preaching, too, was-still is, of course-a summons, about which there is also nothing passive. His words are like whipcords; they sting. Phrases like "You brood of vipers" electrify us. We shudder when we hear him say that our penance has not been penance enough, but that more is needed. He makes us ashamed of ourselves-the little we have done, the little we do. But, as Monsignor Ronald Knox once observed, John was a bulldozer, and bulldozers aren't subtle. His business was to help us steamroller the rough roads.

John learned his vocation and acquired the wisdom for his preaching in the simplicity and hardships of a desert experience. Away from the artificial lights and the empty noises of a world wrapped up within itself, he was able to ponder the Scriptures and pray without external distractions, and thus learn to see the divine light and to hear God's voice in this world. Too, we are told that he tasted; he took means to ensure that his hunger for material food did not distract him from becoming aware of a deeper hunger still, a hunger we all experience but sometimes tend to deny; namely, a yearning for the substantial bread of the soul which only God can provide.

"Make ready the way of the Lord. Clear him a straight path." We can establish desert experiences like John the Baptizer's in our small worlds this Advent. We can turn off the television, for example, especially when it is just empty noise, and no more. We can seek to avoid, inasmuch as possible, the artificial lights: stores accenting the commercialization of Christmas -especially on Sundays-in order to give ourselves time to search with the real light of faith into the inner recesses of our souls, thereby preparing for a good confession. The fact is that we all have little areas that we would rather not search out; didn't St. Augustine admit, in his Confessions, that he once dared to pray, "Lord, make me chaste, but not yet?"

The divine-gift giver, Jesus, has already pledged to embrace us with forgiveness; repentance is the attitude by means of which his encounter with us can only be realized.

Desert-like simplicity and prayer can help us experience the vision today's Second Reading places before our eyes:

"What we await are new heavens and a new earth, where, according to his promise, the justice of God will reside. So, beloved, while waiting for this, make every effort to be found without stain or defilement, and at peace in his sight."

Again, there is nothing passive about Christianity.

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