From the start of this Gospel passage, the Evangelist is sensitive to political and religious power, telling his reader who is in charge. In the midst of the everyday workings of what Paul would call the powers and principalities, John the Baptist receives the word of God while praying in the desert, that place the ancients went to do spiritual warfare against evil. Duly equipped, he makes his way about the Jordan, “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,” urging all who would hear him to “prepare the way of the Lord.”
Presbyterian theologian and historian Justo González invites us to read the Bible in Spanish—to interpret biblical texts in ways that acknowledge the contexts from which we come, attentive to the power dynamics at work in these texts, discerning what is Good News today and how we are implicated in bringing it about in the here and now. It is clear to me that the Good News of this Sunday’s Gospel involves this call to repentance; these Good News have everything to do with preparing the way of the Lord. Especially as we interpret the Gospel in light of the First Reading, we see that God’s desire for justice in the here and now is an integral part of making ready our hearts and the world for the coming of the Christ child.
In praying with this passage, I cannot help but consider the needs of “the mobile congregation.” During these holy days of anticipation, many Christians are discerning their roles in the struggle for justice on the part of these asylees, asking ourselves what it means to prepare the way of the Lord in light of the reality of injustice for our brothers and sisters on the southern border. How might we prepare our hearts and the world for Jesus this Advent?
(1) Continue to pray. Lift up the safety and security of our brothers and sisters in “the mobile congregation” in intercessory prayer. Ask God to protect them and to keep them safe. If you’re struggling to find words in your prayer time, try praying the Immigrants’ Creed.
(2) Continue to educate ourselves. Read and listen to the news of what is happening on the southern border. Be discerning in evaluating the perspectives you hear—about whose interests they serve, in what light they paint asylees, what words they use to describe those affected by injustice most intimately.
(3) Share what we have with those who are serving asylees and those recently released from detention. If you are local to Austin, the Seminary is collecting the following items through this Thursday: Zip-Lock baggies in gallon and quart size, deodorant, toothpaste and toothbrushes, sealed snack food (e.g. granola bars, peanut butter & cheese crackers), reusable shopping bags, baby bottles, shoelaces. Regardless of your location, consider making a donation to Sacred Heart Humanitarian Respite Center in the Rio Grande Valley or Annunciation House in El Paso, TX.
(4) Advocate for policies that honor the human rights of asylees. Begin to build relationships with your legislators that honor the common good and respect human dignity, the fundamental building blocks of Catholic social teaching. With permission, I'm amplifying a message from PICO/Faith in Action here: This week, call your legislators (1.855.656.7426) to encourage them to (1) send judges and aid to the border, (2) end catch and release at the border, (3) vote no in Congress on an expanded budget for ICE, and (4) ensure due process for all asylum seekers. This phone number will connect you with your Representative and your Senators. Whether you speak to a staffer or leave a voicemail, be sure to leave your name, your phone number, and your email, as well as a reminder that you are a constituent in that legislator’s district.