Luke 3:1-6 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
"The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
'Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'"
What if we really believed the words of Julian and Isaiah? What if we looked at the world and the people of the twenty first century through the eyes of these ancient and medieval prophets who also lived in violent, corrupt, disease plagued and morally bankrupt times yet did not let their hearts be hardened? Regardless of their circumstance, inside and out, Julian and Isaiah never stopped recognizing God’s compassionate Presence. Might we too encounter God’s limitless compassion and love in the ceaseless suffering of humanity?
When I ask myself, “what keeps me from “seeing” the way Julian and Isaiah see?” the painful truth is this. Judgement. I look at the world around me and I see what is wrong rather than what is well. My heart is hardened and the judgement of my mind says, “We’re going to hell in a handbasket.” And that makes me anxious and so I contract, begin to build walls to keep the world out except my walls bump into your walls and then we have to battle over property rights and human rights, which executes our humanity because we see each other as threats rather than the vulnerable creatures created in the image and likeness of God that we are. On guard rather than in God.
Oh to see with the eyes of the prophet who looks into the face of corruption and calamity and experiences God’s limitless compassion. In the wilderness of our lives the prophet assures us that everything that is crooked will be made straight, whatever is rough will be made smooth, “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” This is how I choose to be, in God rather than on guard. "And all shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well."