John’s proclamation in this Sunday’s Gospel is striking. Every valley shall be filled! Every mountain and hill shall be made low! John speaks of a time when all is radically changed. These are not small reforms. He did not say, “The mountains will get a bit smaller and the rough ways will be a touch less rough.” No. This is a transformative change. John is describing a profound vision.
In movements for justice, we, too, deeply need vision. It’s what motivates. It’s what keeps us anchored during uncertainty—when we are tempted to cling to what we know, rather than the unimaginable.
Last year, I was part of a campaign to oust the county sheriff in the November elections. At the time, over twenty people had died in the local jails under his watch. His time in office was underlined by racist policies and broad incompetence. During the campaign, we knocked on doors. We made calls. We were arrested for direct action. We took our organizing across the region to undermine white supremacy in the incarceration system. And on election night, he won re-election. The margin could scarcely have been smaller, but he was elected for another term in office.
So, how do we maintain hope? How are we fed in order to continue this work?
We are driven by vision. A vision where people are not held in cages. Where the local jails are not part of our city’s landscape. We see something that is radically different than what is. It keeps us going in times of uncertainty. It allows us, like John, to cry out in the desert boldly and powerfully.
During this time of awaiting the birth of our radical God, take time to get anchored in your vision. Not vaguely or loosely. What does it truly look like? Keep that vision in your mind and heart. Use it as fuel for the road ahead.
Josie Diebold is a graduate of Canisius College (2009) and a former Jesuit Volunteer (Houston 09-10, Syracuse 10-11). She is currently a PhD student at the University at Buffalo School of Social Work and is also a member of the leadership team for Buffalo, NY’s chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice. Josie enjoys being an aunt to three awesome kiddos and doing cross fit, in addition to running, swimming, and biking (all very slowly).