The mountain village of Ein Karem, southwest of Jerusalem, is the location of two churches in the Holy Land: The Church of the Visitation and the Church of St. John the Baptist, where it is believed he was born.
This particular church doesn’t have the hustle and bustle as many of the churches in Palestine and Jerusalem pilgrims flock too. I remember the warm September day when our group went, it felt both unassuming and yet peaceful as our pilgrimage was winding down.
It is built atop the cave to have been where John was born. At the bottom of the steps, pilgrims encounter an altar with a disk below it. Written on it, in Latin, are the words, “The precursor of God was born here.” Pilgrims can crawl under the altar to reverence the sacred space and have a few moments of prayer.
Often during my journey in the Holy Land, when it came to the moment to kiss and reverence these places I had read about my whole life - my mind went blank and the most simple, yet heartfelt words spoke from my heart directly to Jesus.
As I crawled under the altar, it rose strongly in my heart: Make me a prophet like you, John.
Simple and strong all at once.
John the Baptist was the prophetic precursor to the Messiah, Jesus Christ. And while I’m not suggesting any of us radically change our diets to wild honey or bugs, we can ask Jesus to help us step into our own prophetic voice.
The voice of a prophet is necessary and often not respected. It requires courage, bravery, and humility. Across cultures and faith traditions, many prophetic voices have challenged and called forth humanity to do the good, work for the common good, and fight injustice.
Gandhi. Congressman John Lewis. Francis of Assisi. Mary Oliver. Thomas Merton. Sr. Thea Bowman. So many other voices of people preparing the way in their own way and time. They each made a unique difference right where they were placed - just like John the Baptist.
This Second Sunday of Advent, let’s pray together in community: Make me a prophet like you, John. Whatever our stage in life, wherever God has us - use your loud, beautiful, strong prophetic voice right where you are.