Is. 61:1-2a, 10-11; 1 Thess. 5:16-24; Jn. 1:6-8, 19-28
Today's First Reading, [Is. 61:1-2a, 10-11] speaks of God’s prophetic and symbolic language that was spoken through the great Prophet Isaiah.
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me." In these Words, we hear those of the Lord Jesus who was sent by God the Father for the salvation of mankind. God the Father has sent Jesus to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour.
Jesus came to proclaim liberty to the captives, to release the prisoners. When Adam chose to disobey God, he fell from the grace of the Lord. Consequently, he and all his descendants inherited the sinful nature. God's Kingdom inthe Garden of Eden had been corrupted and taken over by the fallen angel Satan who elevated himself as the present prince of the physical world.
During today's Gospel Reading, [Jn. 1:6-8, 19-28] we heard that God had sent John the Baptist as a witness to announce the coming of the Light that is found in Jesus Christ. John the Baptist testified that he was the voice crying in the wilderness, telling all to prepare themselves for the coming of the Lord. Proclaiming a baptism of repentance by water, John testified that the year of the Lord's favour had now arrived.
John declared, "I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way of the Lord.'" These words are not confined to a distant past but resonate with profound relevance in our lives today. In a world filled with challenges, injustices, and neglect, the call to make straight the path of the Lord is as urgent now as it was in the time of John.
Let us begin by considering the context of John's proclamation. John emerged in a time of social unrest, political turmoil, and spiritual complacency. The people of his era faced oppression, moral decay, and a sense of spiritual desolation. Does this not echo the realities of our present time? We, too, live in a world grappling with evils, social injustice, and personal neglect of the marginalized. Our hearts ache for the children deprived of basic rights, for the victims of systemic oppression, and for a society in need of redemption.
The wilderness that John spoke of is not just a physical location; it symbolizes the spiritual and moral deserts that often surround us. Today, our world is filled with the wilderness of indifference, the wilderness of selfishness, and the wilderness of societal neglect. In such a context, we are called to be voices, just as John was—a voice crying out in the wilderness.
Consider the similarities between the time of Jesus and our times. In the era of Christ, the powerful exploited the weak, the marginalized were forgotten, and society was marred by corruption. Fast forward to our world today, and we witness social structures that perpetuate inequality, greed that exploits the vulnerable, and systems that turn a blind eye to those in need. Our call is no different from John's—to make straight the way of the Lord in the midst of these challenges.
There are many biblical passages that affirm our role as voices in the wilderness. In Isaiah 1:17, we are reminded, "Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow." This timeless directive encapsulates the essence of our mission—to actively engage in addressing social injustices and advocating for the neglected, just as John did.
Additionally, Jesus himself proclaims in Matthew 25:40, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." Our actions, or lack thereof, towards the marginalized are a reflection of our response to Christ. As followers of Jesus, we are entrusted with the responsibility to make straight the way for the Lord by standing up against the injustices that plague our society.
One real-life example that illustrates the impact of an ordinary individual being the voice in the wilderness is the story of Craig Kielburger and the Free the Children movement.
Craig Kielburger was just 12 years old when he came across a newspaper article in 1995 about the murder of a young Pakistani boy named Iqbal Masih, who had been forced into child labor. This tragic incident deeply moved Craig, and he decided to take action. Along with his friends and older brother, Marc Kielburger, he founded Free the Children, an organization dedicated to addressing child labor and promoting children's rights.
Craig and his friends started by raising awareness in their local community and speaking out against child labor. What began as a grassroots movement soon expanded, and Free the Children became an international organization. They focused not only on raising awareness but also on implementing practical solutions to empower communities and provide education for children.
The movement has grown over the years, engaging millions of young people worldwide in projects related to education, clean water, health care, and economic empowerment. Craig Kielburger's initial small voice, inspired by compassion and a sense of justice, became a catalyst for a global movement that has made a substantial impact on the lives of countless children.
This demonstrates the transformative power of an ordinary individual's voice when fueled by a genuine commitment to social justice and the well-being of others. It serves as a reminder that each of us has the capacity to make a difference, no matter how small our beginnings may be.
I would like to share one more incident that illustrates the impact of being the voice in the wilderness. Consider the story of a humble community organizer who, in the face of adversity, rallied others to address the plight of the homeless in their city. Through their collective efforts, they established shelters, provided resources, and advocated for systemic change. This is a modern-day example of making straight the way of the Lord, where individuals took on the role of John the Baptist, crying out against the wilderness of homelessness and societal neglect.
Mark was an unassuming school teacher in a small town. Mark observed a growing concern in his community—many children were going to bed hungry. Despite the economic challenges faced by the families in his town, Mark couldn't turn a blind eye to the hunger affecting the children. Inspired by a deep sense of compassion and driven by a commitment to make a difference, Mark decided to be the voice in the wilderness of local neglect.
Mark began by engaging with his fellow teachers, local businesses, and community members. He shared the stories of children who were going without meals and the impact it had on their education and overall well-being. Slowly, he started to raise awareness about the issue, not seeking recognition for himself but focusing on the urgent need to address childhood hunger.
Through his persistent efforts, Mark catalyzed a grassroots movement. Local businesses began to contribute food supplies, community members volunteered their time, and parents joined hands to ensure that no child in their town would go to bed hungry. Mark's voice, initially a lone cry in the wilderness, became a rallying call for collective action.
The impact was profound. The community witnessed a positive change as more and more families were supported with meals, and children flourished both academically and personally. What started as one man's concern evolved into a community-wide effort to address a critical need, proving that the voice of an ordinary person can indeed make a significant impact.
This example mirrors the spirit of John the Baptist, who, in his humility, cried out in the wilderness, "Make straight the way of the Lord." Mark, like John, was not seeking personal glory but was driven by a sense of justice and compassion. His story reminds us that ordinary individuals, when inspired by a sense of responsibility and love for others, can become powerful agents of positive change in the world.
As we reflect on this example, let it inspire us to be attentive to the needs in our own communities, to be the voice for those who may be unheard, and to actively work towards making straight the path of the Lord in the midst of the wilderness around us.
In conclusion, my dear brothers and sisters, we are living in a time that desperately needs voices crying out in the wilderness. Our calling is clear—to make straight the way of the Lord amidst the wilderness of injustice, inequality, and neglect. Let us be inspired by the example of John the Baptist and the teachings of Scripture, as we actively engage in making a difference in the lives of the marginalized and in the broader structures of society.