Advent calls us to be persistent in our search for Jesus

Through the gift of some very generous people, I and a handful of other priests from the archdiocese were able to take part in a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. One memorable stop was to the Jordan River. We stopped at the site believed to be the place where John the Baptist most likely would have preached, and was baptizing. This was the probable spot of Jesus’ very own baptism – the same site we hear about in this Sunday’s Gospel.

I tend to be a little skeptical about the authenticity of these sort of places. Our Franciscan guide would often offer a peculiar phrase: "If it’s not here, it’s near." Adding to my skepticism were all the crowds, the souvenir shops and the other commercial development. It was a very touristy sort of place. On top of that, the Jordon River was very unimpressive, more like a muddy creek you’d see in Nebraska. It was certainly not the fresh, clean river with lush vegetation I had imagined it to be.

At some point during our stop, I became preoccupied with trying to get a true picture. I wanted a photo without any tourist, buildings or shops. I finally settled for a shot with a six-by-six section of some dirty water, a muddy bank and brown, dead reeds. It wasn’t pretty, but I was convinced I had found something that would have looked true to Jesus’ time.

I realize that the "real thing," the "genuine" is not always easy to spot. Questioning the authenticity of John the Baptist was something the Jews were doing when they sent priests and Levites to interrogate him in this Sunday’s Gospel. Who was he? Could he be the Messiah? Could John have responded, "If he’s not here, he’s near"?

The season of Advent calls us to be persistent in our search for Jesus, and act with authentic, genuine faith. Our reading from Isaiah gives us clues not only about what to look for, but likewise how to make it happen. Will we bring glad tidings to the poor, will we heal the brokenhearted, will we bring freedom to captives, and announce a year of favor? In ways that may not meet our expectations, Advent reminds us that we must draw near to Jesus, and be here for him.


Father William L’Heureux is pastor of St. Lawrence Parish in Silver Creek, St. Rose of Lima Parish in Genoa and Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Krakow.

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