A voice cries out:
In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!
Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill shall be made low;
The rugged land shall be made a plain,
the rough country, a broad valley.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together;
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
In recent years religious and social critics have complained about the "uncertain trumpet" that sounds only occasionally and with mixed results. The recent presidential and congressional elections were especially full of sound and fury, signifying something very important, but no one is sure of what. And those who are sure they know what it all means are generally more frightening and less reassuring than anyone.
Our Holy Father Pope Francis has called for Mercy. He has reminded anyone who will listen that governments, economies and religions must serve the least and most vulnerable among us.
Religious in particular must hear the cry of the poor which demands recognition and respect. Perhaps we're all aware of the tens of thousands of losing Super Bowl sweatshirts that are dumped into third world markets as "donations." The manufacturers have created shirts for both teams, instantly ready to market to whichever fans are victorious. The losing shirts will be donated as tax write-offs. Woo-hoo!
I am reminded of the fellow who was looking for something under the street light. A passerby asked, "Did you lose something?"
"Yes," he said, "I've lost my keys.'
"I'll help you look!" but after a few minutes -- "I don't see them. Are you sure you lost them here?"
"No, I lost them back there in the alley."
"Then why are we looking here?"
"The light is better here."
Sometimes we're doing certain "charitable works" not because they help but because we can do them without sacrifice or risk. Or,perhaps, this is the only thing we know how to do, although it doesn't help.
The first thing we should ask of those around us is "How can I help?" We might add that quaint, old phrase, "I am at your service." Or better, "Can we work on this together?"
The "straight highway" we make will be a joint venture, comprising everyone's willingness, resources, courage and generosity.