•Isaiah 63: 16-17, 64: 2-7; I Cor. 1: 3-9; Mark 13:33-37•
Weekly Scripture Readings: 1st Sunday in Advent
It is Advent. Our annual journey into the Mystery of Christ begins again. This year, as a
companion for our Advent journey, I invite you to ponder Robert Frost’s poem “The Road No Taken.” You probably are familiar with the last lines of that poem:
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
Some would say one of the most significant human achievements is the development of “roads.” They are so common we take them for granted. They link us, invite us to cross borders and connect us to one another. Roads are so important they also serve as metaphors.
We hear that in the gospels. Jesus urges his companion to choose the narrow path rather than the broad highway. John’s Jesus self-identifies himself as, “the Way” — the Road.
Early Christians called themselves “followers of the way.” Of course they meant, “followers of the Christ.” And for centuries the route walked by pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain has been called “ the Camino” – the way.
Some years ago, the psychologist M. Scott Peck wrote a book that helps the reader learn how to become one’s true self. It is titled – “The Road Less Traveled.” To become one’s true self is to become fully human. I presume the book was such an enormous literary success because so many people yearn to be their true self, to be fully human.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s great works — “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” also are about becoming fully human. In both he employs “the Road” –singular, as a metaphor. As Bilbo and Fredo step out the door into the unknown they sing,
”The Road goes ever on and on down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone, and I must follow, if I can, pursuing it
With eager feet, until it joins some larger way where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.”
When the community of Mark composed this gospel they still presumed the Risen One would return in their lifetime. They waited and yearned for his return. But they were just like us. With time, memories of our loved ones fade.
Those in Mark’s community had yet to realize the Risen One was present with them. They had yet to realize the Risen One was effectively working through them. They were unaware “God’s new reality” was gradually emerging through them. Apathy was knocking on their door. There was a danger those small communities could fall into indifference. So Mark’s Jesus sounds like a teacher stepping out of the classroom. “I’ll be right back, so don’t misbehave.”
As we hear this text our circumstance is the same as that of Mark’s community, but different. Our world is increasingly secular. Two authoritarian and rigid popes controlled and shaped our experience of being church for 35 years. Our vibrant faith has been infiltrated by apathy and indifference.
Yogi Barra of New York Yankee fame is remembered for his pithy, confusing statements. He once said, “if you come to a fork in the ROAD, take it!” That sort of identifies our situation today.
Once again it is Advent. “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” Jesus, the Risen One, is “the way” – the Road to being fully alive and fully human. Yes, Advent calls us to prepare for Christmas, but more significantly it calls us to awaken to his presence with and among us. It is time for me and for you to be newly aware of and newly engaged in promoting God’s new reality that is emerging in our world.