HOMILY THEME: “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths
straight.’” (Luke 3:4)

BY: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC



Luke 3:1-6

Six or seven years old at the time, it was a bitter cold winter evening as I trudged through hip deep snow in our backyard making my way to the house when the bright glimmer of the full moon’s reflection on the dancing crystals caught my eye. Our steel swing set, exhausted by summer’s exuberance, now lay still under the deep snow, though moonlight brought each sparkling bar to life. The glitter seemed to call forth a curiosity in me as I approached the enticing shimmer, the frozen steel cross bar inviting a good lick as I imagined it to be as refreshing as the raspberry popsicles I relished during the preceding hot summer.

Warm moist tongue touched sub-zero steel and, in a flash, I was stuck, glued to the bar. No one was around to help, and, my tongue immobilized, I couldn’t utter more than a weak groan. To my young agonized mind there seemed just two possibilities: preserve my tongue intact and suffer hyperthermia until I was discovered (hopefully before death), or escape to the warmth of the house while leaving some frozen tongue behind. Choosing to forgo that bit of flesh, no permanent deficit ensued, though tears and blood flowed freely that night as I came running through the back door.

Because we’re human, we’re bound to have the experience of being frozen in our tracks, unable to budge, simply stuck. And when we find ourselves crying out in such straits, fortune may be with us as a nearby rescuer approaches, or our cries may fade into the distance, eliciting no response at all. Then, desperate for salvation, our pleading eyes turn heavenward for freedom.

I’ve made the acquaintance of frozen-stuck people as they lay in a hospital bed or stand at the bedside of a family member or friend. For some, the confining course of illness is very like the experience of a tender tongue frozen firmly to the steel bar of a backyard swing set. It's then, in such vulnerable moments, that someone may come along with a compassionate presence and a strength of faith. It’s then that an understanding doctor, a gentle nurse or an empathetic chaplain may, like John the Baptist, become for the frozen-stuck, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” (Luke 3:4) Indeed, it’s the activation of one’s own faith that is the freeing agent that loosens the heart and mind from frozen immobility. That’s what John the Baptist preached, consistently pointing out to all who would listen that the Messiah was among them, that salvation was here, that freedom was theirs.

Apart from the human events that constitute a crisis, we can also become frozen-stuck in the course of ordinary daily living without even realizing it. As we age and the habits and attitudes of our youth petrify, we tend to journey heavenward in ruts increasingly deeper and narrower. And then one day, to our horror, we discover that we’re standing alone in the wilderness, far from where we began, perhaps far from human contact, maybe even far from God. Frozen-stuck without even realizing it’s happened, we cry out for what will free us to live and love once again.

John the Baptist was “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” (Luke 3:4) Like him, each of us is called to be a welcoming voice calling out to those who are isolated in dry desert places. Like John, we are called to seek out the frozen-stuck, freeing them with the compassion of our presence and the strength of our faith.

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