I ask myself this question, "Is this the voice of fear?"
Whether discerning the many messages regarding the pandemic, political soap operas of the moment, synodality, or when to take down the Christmas tree (Candlemas) - I have found that the best way to weed out the influence of fear in my own thoughts, from others, or from the world, is to simply ask, "Is this the voice of fear?"
Whatever is presenting itself as frustrating or contradictory, whether it seems big or small, I begin to challenge those thoughts with a very simple question, “Is this the voice of fear?” Why? Because the voice of fear is, at its root, the voice of evil that would like nothing better than to distract, confuse, and despair, and that fear is a lie that leads to darkness, not to light.
Especially during Advent, there is another voice to combat the voice of fear:
“A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’” John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Mark 1:3-4
It’s so interesting to hear the first chapter of Mark - he skips right into Christ’s ministry with the Baptism of Our Lord, and as the opening, John the Baptist quotes Isaiah, weaving Old Testament into New, “prepare the way of the Lord!” We spend an entire liturgical season “preparing the way of the Lord” each Advent, and that message means so much more to me during this pandemic. I believe that many of us feel like a voice crying out in the desert or shouting at the darkness. Honestly, no matter how we perceive best approaches and solutions to the pandemic, they seem to end, at least secularly, with messages of blame and judgment toward others. But what the Gospel message entails is not attempting to dig out the sin we see or the shortcomings we witness, but instead turning away from the darkness, turning towards the light that has come into the world, and preparing a way for him.
Let’s ask that question this Advent… let’s ask that question of how we are called to be saints in a world that seems to have so much division, let’s ask that question of ourselves, let’s ask that question as we discern every challenge we face, “Is this the voice of fear?”
Then, let us turn to Christ, allow his holy and perfect will to reign, and replace that voice with the voice crying out in the desert, “Prepare the way of the Lord!”