2nd Sunday of Advent: Listen to John the Baptist

audio homily here:



John the Baptist may look and sound  forbidding, but don’t let appearances put you off. He spoke in the wilderness, where looks are not important and you can’t keep up appearances. The wilderness symbolizes the hard places we all must pass through.

So we shouldn’t deny they exist. Or think a simple sentence will take them away. I suppose that’s why I prefer John the Baptist to Joel Osteen.

John’s father was Zachariah, a priest in the temple, a much more secure place to be. He told John: “You, my child shall be called the prophet of the most high, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way.” (Luke 1) God called John to the wilderness to show people the way to God from there.

The Judean wilderness where John the Baptist baptized lay about 15 miles east of Jerusalem in the Jordan Valley north of the Dead Sea. Pilgrims from the north took an ancient road along the River Jordan and followed it as it veered right near the town of Jericho to ascend steeply about 3,500 feet up to the Holy City, about an 9 hour walk. A tough road in itself to travel.

Near where the road begins to ascend, John baptized great crowds in the river’s refreshing waters. He baptized Jesus and his disciples in these waters and then pointed Jesus out as “the Lamb of God” and told his followers to follow him as their Shepherd and Way.

John was a voice pointing Jesus out in the wilderness. He still points him out in the wilderness today and tells us to follow him. “You’ll make it through the wilderness,” he says.

music on John the Baptist.

11 thoughts on “2nd Sunday of Advent: Listen to John the Baptist

  1. Gail Smyder

    What is my wilderness?? Me thinks it is in the quiet moments that I need to find this Advent. I’ve tried to journal every Advent and Lent and it just isn’t consistent, Maybe it needs to be. Music helps. A challenge……..

    Love the thoughts and background Father. Have you been there to see it first hand??

  2. vhoagland Post author

    Been there, Gail. It helps to visualize John the Baptist and his world, for example. I know pretty much where his wilderness was. Near Jericho where the road turns west to Jerusalem. I can see pilgrims from Galilee to Jerusalem on that road, tired and hungry from the journey. No roadsigns or rest stops, especially in the wilderness parts along the road. That’s where John met them and showed them where water was and urged them on to the winding steep road to Jerusalem, He must have looked a little scary to them, but his words weren’t scary. Hope-filled instead.
    Geography helps.

  3. Gloria Ziemienski

    I think the wilderness is in seats of government, big cities, ghettos, war zones, prisons, serious illnesses, estrangements of families and friends, unkindness and other such dark things and places: all those dark things and places where God seems not to be, but where God can be found if we remember that God is light.

  4. Gail Smyder

    Father, what a good word picture . It surely helps to put words and your visualization together with your insight. How neat to have been there and then make it real for the rest of us. Also, how necessary it is for us to go beyond the looks of a person before us to the message and in this case HOPE.
    Please remember in your prayers our retired pastor, Fr. John Wilt who died at 5:15 this am. I worked with him for 25 years here at Holy Family. He has had multiple health problems over the years and this year was in the hospital 9 times. He had us all praying for his death these past 2 weeks and now is finally free from pain and at peace.

  5. vhoagland Post author


    That picture was taken at Ein Kerem, the traditional birthplace of John the Baptist, outside Jerusalem. I think the inscriptions are a blend of Arabic and Greek, so I don’t know what they mean. He’s holding a scroll, which would be the words of Isalah, his marching orders. He’s also giving us a indication of what he believes. His two fingers bless us in the name of Jesus, God and human.

  6. BL

    I find Jesus is everywhere we do not want to look. Every difficult situation the Lord is with us. It takes some creativity or a willingness to look beyond the obvious! At least I am always seaching for the ooprtunity! Amen

  7. Rose Miller

    Father Victor, Thank you for being so comforting during mass. Your mass celebrations are always a blessing.

  8. John D

    Father Victor, amazing to consider how Word lines up for me these days – I’ve been pondering Teresa of Avila’s counsel to “Sit among the weeds” and so have been spending time in my wilderness. It is a hard walk at times; they can be the most meaningful times, the shaping, forming ones. Thanks for your encouraging voice in this time of preparation. May the dear Lord, our God and Savior, continue His richest blessings in & through you, now and with each step forward.

  9. cenaclemary12

    As Isaiah promised “There will be a highway, a holy way.”
    In any wilderness, God makes a way out for me and directs me onto the holy way. That’s what was done for Mary…
    “Gabriel’s Message”
    The Angel Gabriel from heaven came,
    his wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame;
    “All hail,” said he, “thou lowly maiden Mary,
    most highly favored lady.”
    “For know a blessed Mother thou shalt be,
    all generations laud and honor thee,
    thy son shall be Emmanuel, by seers foretold;
    most highly favored lady.”
    Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head,
    “To me be as it pleases God,” she said,
    “My soul shall laud and magnify his holy name”:
    most highly favored lady.
    Learn more about the music of O Emmanuel http://dynamiccatholic.com/o-emmanuel/

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