The work of the Baptizer
Letting God Find Us
1) John the Baptist, the Pony Express of the past: The Pony Express was founded by William H. Russell, William B. Waddell, and Alexander Majors. Plans for the Pony Express were spurred by the threat of the Civil War and the need for faster communication with the West. The Pony Express consisted of relays of men riding horses carrying saddlebags of mail across a 2000-mile trail. The service opened officially on April 3, 1860, when riders left simultaneously from St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California through Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah and Nevada. The first westbound trip was made in 9 days and 23 hours and the eastbound journey in 11 days and 12 hours. The Express Riders covered 250 miles in a 24-hour day. Their salary was $ 100 to 150 a month, high wages in those days. Eventually, the Pony Express had more than 100 stations, 80 riders, and between 400 and 500 horses. The express route was extremely hazardous, because the riders had to fight Indians and bandits using their two revolvers and knife. But only one mail delivery was ever lost. The service lasted only 19 months until October 24, 1861, when the completion of the Pacific Telegraph line ended the need for its existence although California relied upon news from the Pony Express during the early days of the Civil War. However, the romantic drama surrounding the Pony Express has made it a part of the legend of the American West. Today’s Gospel reminds us of those brave, fearless and young Express Riders with the Lord’s words. “I am sending my messenger…to prepare the way of the Lord.” (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
2) Letting God Find Us: A school principal called the house of one of his teachers to find out why he was not at school. He was greeted by a small child who whispered: “Hello?” in his daddy’s cell phone. “Is your Daddy at home?” asked the principal. “Yes” answered the whispering child. “May I talk to him?” the principal asked. “No,” replied the small voice. “Is your Mommy there?” the principal asked. “Yes,” came the answer. “May I talk with her?” Again, the small voice whispered, “No.” “All right,” said the principal, “Is there anyone besides you?” “Yes,” whispered the child, “A policeman.” “A policeman? Now may I speak with the policeman?” “No, he is busy,” whispered the child. “Busy with what?” asked the principal. “Talking to Daddy and Mommy and the fireman,” came the child’s answer. “The fireman? Has there been a fire in the house or something?” asked the principal. “No,” whispered the child. “Then what are the policeman and the fireman doing there?” Still whispering, the young voice replied with a soft giggle, “They are looking for me.” It would be pretty hard for the ‘rescuers’ to find the child as long as the child keeps hiding from them. -In Today’s Gospel we see John the Baptist calling out to the people of Judea to come out into the open space and let God find them. You can liken John the Baptist’s call to the fireman calling to the ‘lost’ child. The child has to leave his hiding place and come out into the open for the policeman to find him. (John Pichappilly in The Table of the Word). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
3) A Tale of Repentance. Not too many years ago, newspapers carried the story of Al Johnson, a Kansas man who repented of his sins and chose Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. What made his story so remarkable was the fact that, as a result of his newfound Faith in Christ, he confessed to a bank robbery he had participated in when he was nineteen years old. Because of the statute of limitations, Johnson could not be prosecuted for the offense. But because of his complete and total change of heart, he not only confessed his crime but voluntarily repaid his share of the stolen money! That’s repentance – metanoia — the radical change of heart demanded by John the Baptist in today’s Gospel. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
4. “I did not send you!” A man who thought he was John the Baptist was disturbing the neighborhood. So, for public safety, he was forcefully taken to the psychiatric ward of a hospital. He was put in a room with another crazy patient. He immediately began his routine, “I am John the Baptist! The Lord has sent me as the forerunner of Christ the Messiah!” The other guy looked at him and declared, “I am the Lord your God. I did not send you!”
5. “Maybe Jesus was a Jew, but God is a Baptist!” A little girl who normally attended another Sunday School happened to attend a Methodist Sunday School one weekend, while visiting her grandmother. In the course of the morning she heard a number of things she wasn’t quite sure about, but when the teacher said that Jesus was a Jew she responded, “Maybe Jesus was a Jew, but God is a Baptist!”(Of course, God isn’t a Baptist; and neither was John the Baptist, for that matter. That is why the Revised Standard Version calls him “John the Baptizer”…to avoid such confusion.)
1) Resistance Movement in Europe and Israel: During World War II, there were a variety of underground groups that sprang up throughout German-occupied Europe in an attempt to oppose the Nazi regime. Known generically as the Resistance, this grassroots movement was comprised of still untold numbers of civilians as well as armed partisans and guerrilla fighters. Their activities on behalf of their respective governments included: assisting in the escape of Jews, captured Allied soldiers and others who were unjustly detained; committing acts of sabotage and smuggling intelligence information to the Allied command; publishing and circulating clandestine newspapers and other informative literature. Among the publications of the Resistance were poems, songs and accounts of heroism intended to bolster their compatriots to persevere against the growing tyranny. If the time that Deutero-Isaiah and his contemporaries spent in exile in Babylonia could be compared to the oppression of Europe during the second world war, then the visions, songs and oracles, through which the prophet supported and encouraged his people, could be called Resistance Literature. Also known as the Book of Comfort or Consolation, Isaiah 40-55 is the work of an unnamed mid-sixth century B.C.E. prophet. In this his inaugural vision, the prophet has identified himself and his mission as well as the role of Israel for the future. (Sanchez Files). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
2) Growing crabs “molt” every so often as they grow. Permit me to draw an analogy. We “aficionados” of crab meat – both as cooks and as consumers – are aware that growing crabs “molt” every so often as they grow. This means that they shed their outer shell, which does not grow, to make room for a new shell more conducive to housing their growing body. And they need lots of “moisture” to avoid death and to make the process less painful. This “self-shedding of the old” is doing “radical violence” to what we call the crab’s body. But it is absolutely necessary in order to avoid death from suffocation in his “old” lifestyle.Now take that analogy to the spiritual level. St. Paul is saying (in effect) that we, too, must make “every effort to be found without stain or defilement” when the Lord comes again. Notice that it calls for effort on our part; we don’t just waltz our way into heaven – it takes work, albeit joyful work. We need to shed our old “shells” of selfishness and pride, as well as our disobedience to the teachings of the Church Magisterium in matters of faith and morals (such disobedience is also sinful and stubborn pride, is it not?).St. Paul is warning us not to be caught wrapped in a useless shell of cultural conformity that prevents spiritual growth. Continued spiritual growth is an absolutely essential part of our preparation for eternity; it is our way of “preparing the way of the Lord” who will come again at a time unknown to us, without warning. We need the “moisture” of prayer, humility and trustful obedience to the Magisterium to avoid eternal death. (Bishop Clarke). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
3) Trailblazer successors of John the Baptists: “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” Columbus was a trailblazer who dared to believe that it was possible to reach the East Indies by sailing west across a vast uncharted ocean. Yet, even with the odds stacked against him, Columbus sailed with his flotilla of three ships. His eventual discovery of the New World blazed a path that many have followed. About eighty years later Nicholas Copernicus, a Polish priest and amateur astronomer, initiated another revolution. His observations of the heavens convinced him that the theory of Ptolemy (ca. 150 BC, an Egyptian mathematician and astronomer), that the earth was the center of the universe, was wrong and that the sun was the center of the solar system with the earth one of many heavenly bodies which rotated around it. This heliocentric theory was not supported by Church as it was not the description in the Bible. Thus, Copernicus was forced to wait until the year of his death to publish his work. In 1803, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set out on an expedition that led to the opening of the West in the United States. Lewis and Clark, in their famous three-year journey by boat and on foot, blazed a trail for countless pioneers who later went west in search of land, fortune, and fame. Christiaan Barnard, a South African physician and surgeon, had conducted many experiments with human hearts, especially the replacement of valves. But on December 3, 1967, he performed the first heart transplant. The patient lived only eighteen days, but it was a start. His second transplant patient survived over a year and a half. Barnard was the trailblazer for modern heart surgery. Today the transplantation of a human heart is so commonplace that when it happens it receives not one word in the local paper or on the evening news. Columbus, Copernicus, Lewis and Clark, and Christiaan Barnard were all trailblazers. They had the courage to prepare a path that others could follow, a route that in each case brought the world to a better and more advanced state. On this Second Sunday of Advent we hear John the Baptist, in our Gospel Reading, blazing a special path, as he prepared the way of the Lord. We are asked to do the same for our brothers and sisters. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
4) “Sorry, I didn’t recognize you.”: A middle-age woman is having a near-death experience in the operating room. She asks God if she is going to die. God says no and explains that she has another 30 to 40 years to live. With all those bonus years assured, she decides to make the most of them by staying on at the hospital to have an “extreme makeover.” She has a face-lift, liposuction, breast augmentation and a tummy tuck. She even changes her hair color to platinum blonde. As a “new” woman, she proudly sashays out of the hospital and is struck and killed by a speeding ambulance at the entrance. At the Pearly Gates she confronts God and tells him, “I thought you said I had another 30 to 40 years!” God replies, “Sorry, I didn’t recognize you.” The Jews didn’t recognize John the Baptist, not knowing if he was the herald or the Messiah himself. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
5) Homecoming in Roots. Homecoming is featured in Alex Haley’s epic saga of an American family, Roots. “Chicken George”, son of Kizzy and grandson of the family’s African patriarch, Kunta Kinte, had been sold by his master to a member of the English gentry who used the man’s skills at training cocks to fight. George had been promised that, after a few years in Europe, he’d be able to return home to his family, as a free man. But, as with many such promises, years passed before it was fulfilled. When at last George did return, his coming home had significance for all his family. This would indeed be a new beginning. Now a free man, George had the capability of buying the freedom of his aged wife, grown sons, their wives and his grandchildren. Though their aged and furrowed faces bore a visible record of years of want and struggle, their eyes burned with an unmistakable determination to keep their family together and to keep alive the traditions of their ancestral African people. Those same eyes brimmed with tears of joy at the thought of leaving their slave quarters and of finally coming home, to a plot of land bought by Chicken George in Tennessee. On this second Sunday of Advent, each of the selections from Scripture would also have us consider the notion of coming home – Babylonian exiles coming home, shalom or perfect peace coming home and Jesus the Savior “coming home” into our lives. (Sanchez Files). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
6) Conversion of IRA bomber: For 300 years the people in Ireland have lived in the past. For 350 years, really, all they have done is remember the past, taking revenge on one another. But slowly, one by one, on both sides, people have begun to repent, to look, not to the past, but to the future. One of the first to do so was a man named Shane O’Doherty. He was the first former IRA member to come out publicly for peace. Twenty years ago he was sent to jail for mailing letter bombs. At his trial as a terrorist for the IRA, he had to sit and listen to people tell what it was like to open those letters. Fourteen people testified against him, all innocent victims, many of them mutilated because of what he had done. He said it was sitting in that court, face to face with people who had been harmed by his actions that his conversion began. But it was completed in prison, in his cell, as he was reading Scripture. First he experienced Jesus’ love for him. Then he experienced Jesus’ requirement of him. He knew he had to change. When he got out of prison, O’Doherty started to talk about building a new future in Ireland, instead of just repeating the past. He found that his life was now being threatened by his former colleagues. But he continued to do it, because, he said, “I believe that one person is able to make a difference just by talking about peace, just by making his witness. It begins in any nation, in any community, with one person, then another, and then another, saying, ‘I’m going to accept the future that God is giving to us, rather than simply repeating the past.’” Every year in Advent they are there, both John and Jesus, saying, “Repent; for the time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom is at hand.” God is offering us a new future. Let us choose it, turn away from the past, and accept what God is offering us. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
7) “Come home for your dear Daddy’s sake.”: Ian Maclaren once told a delightful story of Lackland Campbell and his daughter Dora. Dora left home and fell into the wrong kind of relationships. She began to misuse the gifts of life. Soon she did not respond to her father’s letters because she found it difficult to relate to him. Maggie, Dora’s aunt, wrote her a letter that finally melted her heart. At the end of the letter Maggie writes: “Dora, your Daddy is a grievin’ ye. Come home for your own sake. Come home for your dear Daddy’s sake. But, Dora, come home most of all for the dear Lord’s sake!” [Lloyd John Oglivie. The Cup of Wonder (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1976).] Christmas is a time of coming home. John the Baptist’s message was simple: “Repent,” turn your life around, change your mind, examine your motives, because the Messiah will be here soon. This brings us to the final theme of today’s text. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
8) “The University Has Been Waiting 250 Years for Us.“: At the 250th anniversary of the founding of Harvard University, the students marched in a torchlight procession. The most memorable group was the Freshman Class, one month old, which emerged with a gigantic banner reading, “The University Has Been Waiting 250 Years for Us.” The New Testament presents Jesus Christ and exclaims that all the ages have been waiting for His arrival, that all history has been preparing for His coming. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
9) Prepare the way: Culturally, Alexander the Great had spread the Greek language over most of the civilized world three centuries earlier. It was then established as the international language by which the Gospel could be communicated. Governmentally, the Romans furnished a system of law which made it possible for the Gospel to grow in relative stability. Logistically, the system of Roman roads made travel by missionaries very possible. (Ernest White.) Do you suppose that as Alexander was extending his empire, he had any idea that God was using him to prepare the way for the Babe of Bethlehem? Do you suppose that as the Romans built the roads that made commerce possible over all the known world, they knew that they were preparing the way for the King of Kings? When Augustus Caesar sent out his decree that all the world should be taxed and that every person should be enrolled in his own city, do you suppose that he had any idea that he was engaged in bringing to pass an ancient prophecy that the Messiah should be born in Bethlehem? By the time John cried out in the wilderness his prophetic, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,” God had already been at work for thousands of years bringing about just the right conditions for the birth of his Son. Then, in the fullness of time, Christ was born. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
10) “I have never felt remorse.”: In September of 1985, convicted killer Theodore Streleski was released from prison after having served seven years for the hammer-slaying of a Stanford University professor. He had been a model prisoner in many ways. On three occasions prior to his release, he had been offered parole, but each time he rejected it because he was unwilling to accept its conditions. One condition was that he express some remorse for his crime and promise never to kill again. But Streleski said, “I do not feel remorse. I have never felt remorse.” (The Bellevue (Ohio) Gazette, Sept. 9, 1985, p. 1) Repentance is important. Confession is important. Obviously, when we confess our sins we are not giving God any information God doesn’t already have. But we are getting our souls in position where we can accept God’s forgiveness. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
11) Missing figure in the nativity scene: A three-year-old was helping his mother unpack their nativity set. He announced each piece as he removed its tissue paper wrappings. “Here’s the donkey!” he said. “Here’s a king and a camel!” When he finally got to the tiny infant lying in a manger he proclaimed, “Here’s Baby Jesus in his car seat!” Well, it wasn’t a car seat, but that would be an easy mistake to make, wouldn’t it? We all love nativity scenes. Baby Jesus in the manger . . . Mary and Joseph hovering reverently over the Holy Child . . . shepherds, wise men, assorted cattle, sheep and camels . . . and, of course, a donkey. But, as someone has noted, there is always one person missing from these nativity scenes. Have you ever seen John the Baptist in any of the nativity scenes? Louder than any Santa says, ‘Ho, ho, ho,’ you would hear the automated voice of John the Baptist screaming, ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is near.’ Has anyone noticed a figure like that in any of the nativity scenes that are traditional to our celebration of Christmas?” (http://www.nph.com/nphweb/html/pmol/pastissues/2005%20Advent/webdec4.htm. ) Well, no. At least, I’ve never seen a nativity scene featuring John the Baptist. Yet, on the second Sunday of Advent, we always encounter this strange lonely figure sounding his message out in the wilderness, “Prepare the way for the Lord.” (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
12) “Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth“: A popular paperback says “Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth” (Hal Lindsey and C.C. Carlson, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1972)…in spite of the fact that Jesus said precisely the opposite. (See Luke 10:18) The Ayatollah Khomeini referred to America as “The Great Satan” and then did things that seemed to earn the title for himself. He called us “Satan,” and we were quick to return the compliment. Everybody seems to know more about Satan than I do. I once heard of a minister in Chicago who preached three sermons on the Devil. His titles were: “Who the Devil he is,” “What the Devil he does” and “How the Devil he does it.” Today’s readings challenge us to know more about Jesus and his triple “homecoming” to earth. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
13) “What are swaddling clothes?”: A 6-year-old little girl, missing a front tooth, emerged from her Sunday school class with a grin on her face, a piece of candy and a new pencil in her hands. “Guess what?” she said to Mom, “I was the best listener today. I won the prize!” “That’s wonderful,” Mom replied. “How did you win?” “Miss Lynda read a story about baby Jesus then asked what Mary wrapped the baby Jesus in when she laid him in the manger.” “Well, what did Mary wrap him in?” “Swaddling clothes,” came the quick reply. “What are swaddling clothes?” Mom asked. “I don’t know,” she admitted, shrugging her shoulders. “I guess they’re what ducks wear.” (Childress, Modesto, California in Christian Herald). Sometimes we treat Christmas like that; we know the answers, we know the story but we don’t know the meaning behind those answers. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
14) Jesus was born up at the North Pole: In a Family Circus cartoon, the little girl sits her baby brother on her lap and tells him the story of Christmas. According to her version: Jesus was born just in time for Christmas up at the North Pole surrounded by eight tiny reindeer and the Virgin Mary. Then Santa Claus showed up with lots of toys and stuff and some swaddling clothes. The three Wise men and elves all sang carols while the Little Drummer Boy and Scrooge helped Joseph trim the tree. In the meantime, Frosty the Snowman saw this star. We can appreciate her confusion. There is a lot to learn about Christmas. Who does the teaching in your home? (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
15) The Desert Experience: In the high desert of Crestone, Colorado in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains there is a hermitage called the Spiritual Life Institute. Founded in 1960 by Fr. William McNamara, the Institute is a center for contemplation under the direction of an ecumenical community of men and women. At the entrance to the Spiritual Life Institute there is a wooden plaque which serves as the Magna Carta of their desert experience. On this wooden plaque is a triangle with three words inside – silence, solitude and simplicity – and three words outside – contemplation, communion and celebration. One of the desert heroes of this Institute is John the Baptist, who is introduced in today’s Gospel as a “voice in the desert, heralding the Lord’s coming.” The Gospel then goes on to keynote his desert experience as an ideal Advent preparation for Christmas. [Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds; quoted by Fr. Botelho.]. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
16) Reverse mind: A woman was dying of cancer. Her doctor said, “Ma’am, your cancer has spread, and I’m afraid you’ll die soon. Is there any last wish you’d like me to fulfill?” “Yes,” cried the woman weakly, “Can you take me to another doctor?” It’s difficult to accept painful truths like, “I’m sick,” or “I’m a sinner.” But, John’s accusing finger diagnoses my spiritual cancers, and prescribes their cure: repentance. “Prepare a way,” says John; “make paths straight!” The Greek word for repentance, metanoia, etymologically means ‘reverse mind’. John calls me to reverse my mad rush against God and surf safely on the waves of Love. The world’s ways are enticing: Its waves promise ‘new highs’ of narcotics, narcissism, sex, success, popularity and possessions. Indeed, John the Baptist’s “cry in the wilderness” is a far cry from what Indo-American Deepak Chopra and other New Age gurus and TV-evangelists promise of ‘instant salvation’. Will I prepare my way to meet The Way? [Francis Gonsalves in Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds; quoted by Fr. Botelho.] (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
17) It’s all about preparation: In the late seventies, Pope St. John Paul II visited Ireland. It was a wonderful occasion and it will live forever in the memories of those who were involved. Apart from the blessings of the Good Lord Himself, there were many reasons why the occasion went so well. The most important one, in my opinion, was the preparation that preceded his visit. I was personally involved in some of this, so I experienced it at first hand. We had huge crowds at special Masses and All-night Vigils, and there were thousands of prayer-cards all over the place, with prayers for a blessing on the Papal visit. When the Pope finally arrived, we were ready. I believe we were as prepared as we could have been. It was a huge success, and a time of many blessings for all. I am fully convinced that the effort put into the preparation contributed enormously to those blessings. [Jack McArdle in And that’s the Gospel Truth!; quoted by Fr. Botelho.] (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
18) “39 years had gone by!”: In the film The Cemetery Club, Esther, a middle-aged widow, reflects on the sudden death of her husband, Murray: “By the time the ambulance got there, he was gone. It just seems so unreal, you know? There we were, enjoying a wonderful dinner and… When I got home that night, his cigar was still in the ashtray. His tooth brush was still damp. I just couldn’t make sense of it, you know? It is like one day you’re looking into his face as he proposes and the next day you’re standing at his grave remembering how nervous he had been – and, between those two days, 39 years had gone by! Application: How are we using out time? [Gerard Fuller in Stories for all Seasons; quoted by Fr. Botelho.] (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
19) “Made a difference to this one.”: One day, a man was walking along the shore. As he looked down the beach, he saw a boy reaching down to the sand, picking up something and very gently throwing it back into the sea. As he got closer, he called out, “Good morning, young man! What are you doing?” The young person paused, looked up and replied, “Throwing starfish into the sea.” Why are you throwing starfish into the sea?” the man asked. “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in they’ll die.” “But, don’t you realize that there are miles of beach here and starfish all along it. You can’t possibly make a difference!” The boy listened politely. Then he knelt down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves and said…”Made a difference to this one.” Advent is the time to make a difference in the life of somebody. (Fr. Eugene Lobo S.J.) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
20) Searching for the lost key: A neighbor found Nasuruddin on hands and knees. “What are you searching for, Mullah?” “My key.” Both men got on their knees to search. After a while the neighbor says, “Where did you lose it?” “At home.” “Good Lord! Then why are you searching here?” “Because it’s brighter here!” We must search for the better life where we lost it, and we lost it where God is; and where God is, there are “new heavens and new earth” During this Advent, therefore, we need to get into a symbolic desert experience, in order to experience God, Who is already here amongst us. “Here I am with you,” says God, “and you keep thinking of Me, talking of Me with your tongue and searching for Me in your books! When will you shut up and see?” [Vima Dasan in His Word Lives.] (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
21) Facilitating God’s coming: A monk was passing along a dangerous and deserted highway. He came across a wounded man with high fever lying helplessly on the roadside. The monk took compassion on him and began to take care of him. He cleaned his wounds and tied them with medicinal leaves; he shared his food with him and spent the night taking care of him. The following morning the man was a little better and he was able to proceed on his own. When the monk was about to take leave, the stranger turned towards the monk and said to him, “Sir, you do not know who I am – neither my name, nor my race or caste or language, yet you bound my wounds, shared your food and spent the night taking care of me. Tell me, what made you do all these things for me?” Then the monk replied, “The Lord who created me said, ‘What you do to the least of your brethren, you do it for Me.’ You are my brother. What I had have done for you, I have done for my Lord.” Then the man said, “Sir, who is your God? If your God makes you do all these things to a stranger, then I need that God. Give your God to me.” The monk paved the way for God in that man’s life. It is said that a saint is one who makes it easy for others to believe in God. [John Rose in John’s Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho.] (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
22) “Empty your cup”: In the Zen tradition of the Far East there is a story about a professor who went to visit the great master Nan-In one day. “Master,” he said, “teach me what I need to know to have a happy life. I have studied the Sacred Scriptures, I have visited the greatest teachers in the land, but I have not found the answer. Please teach me the way.” At this point Nan-In served tea to his guest. He poured his visitor’s cup full and then kept on pouring and pouring so that the tea began to run over the rim of the cup and across the table, and still he poured, until tea was cascading upon the floor. The professor watched this until he could not longer restrain himself. “It’s overfull! Stop! No more will go in!” he cried out. “Like this cup”, Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you the way unless you first empty your cup?” Let us empty our hearts of all the unnecessary and harmful stuff during these Advent weeks, clean it with tears of repentance and confession of sins, allow it to be filled with God and keep Him the center of our lives during Christmas and every day of the New Year. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
23) Preparation of an artist: Our tendency is to think that everything should happen fast and easily – especially in our spiritual life. But that’s not true. Think about how much work goes into to plowing a farmer’s field before it’s ready to plant. Think about the nine months of preparation that occur before a mother gives birth to her child. Think about the literally thousands of man-hours that a professional football team uses just to get ready for one regular season football game. Or think about everything artists have to do in order to get their canvas ready for painting. After building a wooden frame, cutting the canvas to fit it, stretching the canvas over the frame and attaching it firmly and evenly, they’re still not ready to paint. They have to prime the canvas first, applying a layer of “sizing”, a thin coat of weak glue that acts as a sealant and protective coating. Once that is dry, they have to apply the “ground,” a layer of special gesso [JEH-sew] or very thin plaster that produces a uniform color, texture, and level of absorbency. When the first coat of gesso dries, the artist has to lightly brush the entire canvas with sandpaper to smooth it out, and then apply a second coat. Only when that coat has dried and been smoothed is the canvas ready to become a work of art. If an artist is careless with this painstaking process of preparation, the acid in the oil paint will soak through the surface and deteriorate the fabric of the canvas. Then, years later, the painting will suddenly and inexplicably start to fall apart. Advent is about preparing the canvas of our hearts to receive God’s grace at Christmas. (E-Priest). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
24) St. Louis IX Reaches Out: God’s tireless attention to us is shown forth eloquently in the lives of the saints, who are always striving to seek out the lost sheep and tend to the needs of those around them. St. Louis IX, King of France in the thirteenth century, is a perfect example. His 52-year reign is still considered one of France’s most golden ages. He understood that God had not made him King so that he could enjoy himself, but so that he could show forth God’s goodness to his people. He used to walk through the streets of his cities distributing alms by the handful. He would go into the hospitals and homes for the dying and nurse the worst cases himself. He would sometimes invite to his own royal dinner table twenty homeless people whose filth and stench revolted even the soldiers of his guard. Once when he was outside, he heard the distant rattle of a leper, which was a warning to stay away from the afflicted person. But St. Louis walked directly towards the sound instead of away from it, and embraced the hideously deformed man. He gave special attention to the administration of justice, introducing lasting reforms in the legal system. His biographer even tells about how he would sometimes leave morning Mass and go outside under an oak tree near the edge of the woods. He would stay there all day to hear complaints and cases of the common people, administering justice quickly and fairly so that they didn’t have to invest time and money in following the complex court procedures. He was always present to his people, because he had discovered that God was always present to him. And God is present to us too, always waiting for us. (E- Priest). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
25) To find God: “Vladimir Ghika was a Romanian prince who became a Catholic priest and died a martyr in a Communist concentration camp in 1954. His words are particularly apt today as we begin our own Odyssey in a new wilderness: “He who does not seek God everywhere runs the risk of not finding him anywhere.” The good news of this advice, as St. Bernard and other mystics remind us, is, “No one can seek you O Lord, who has not already found you.” Or as St. Gregory of Nyssa put it: “To find God one must search for Him without end.” Not only will we come to experience the truth of this timely paradox, but we will discover that God does indeed let Himself be sought and found in every historical era, even in those great axial ruptures in history such as ours. Our new spirituality will remind and reassure us that God is still Emmanuel, that is, still very much “with us” in the wilderness.” (Richard Cote; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
26) Prepare for the Service of God: Martin Buber tells the story about a rabbi’s disciple who begged his master to teach him how to prepare his soul for the service of God. The holy man told him to go to Rabbi Abraham, who at the time, was still an innkeeper. The disciple did as instructed and lived in the inn for several weeks without observing any vestige of holiness in the innkeeper, who, from Morning Prayer till night devoted himself to affairs of his business. Finally, the disciple approached him and asked him what he did all day. “My most important occupation” said Rabbi Abraham, “is to clean the dishes properly, so that not the slightest trace of food is left, and to clean and dry the pots and pans, so that they do not rust.” When the disciple returned home and reported to his rabbi what he had seen and heard, the rabbi said to him, “Now you know the answer about how to prepare your soul for the service of God.” The way to reach God is by doing everything wholeheartedly and genuinely; everything (and every act) is full of God’s holiness — so treat it accordingly with dignity and respect. (Brian Cavanaugh in Sower’s Seeds of Christian Family Values; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
27) Rehearsal!: It was a hot Sunday in June and millions of Americans were watching the U.S. Golf Open on TV. At a critical point in the play, the camera focused on Jack Nicklaus. He was in the rough and preparing to shoot out. Slowly and deliberately he addressed the ball. Then for a full 20 seconds of prime-time TV, he stood poised and ready to swing. Suddenly at the last moment he backed away from the ball and said aloud for everybody to hear, “That’s the wrong swing.” The sports commentator covering the match was confused and said, “But he didn’t swing! What’s going on here?” A lot was going on. And Nicklaus explains exactly what it was in his book, Golf My Way, in which he describes how he prepares for every shot he takes. It is a process called mental rehearsal. This simply means that he plays every shot in his imagination before he plays it for real. Nicklaus writes: “It is like a color movie. First, I ‘see’ the ball where I want it to finish, nice and white on the bright green grass. Then the scene quickly changes, and I ‘see’ the ball going there, even its behavior on landing. Then there’s a sort of fade-out, and the next scene shows me making the kind of swing that will turn the previous images into reality.” What Jack Nicklaus was doing on that hot Sunday afternoon in the U.S. Golf Open is what the Church is asking us to do during the season of Advent. The Church asks us to go through a kind of mental rehearsal to prepare for the coming of Christ, his final coming at the end of time. (Mark Link). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
28) “Forget Him!”: There is an interesting and thought-provoking incident from Lawrence of Arabia. While crossing the desert in a blinding sandstorm, Lawrence suddenly noticed that one of his group had been mistakenly left behind. Turning to the group, he asked, “Where is Jasmine?” “Forget him,” said one of the leaders, “not only is he sick, but he is worthless!” Without batting an eyelid, the valiant leader turned back in search of his lost companion, even at the risk of his own life, and would not rest content until Jasmine had been traced and re-united to the group. Lawrence’s refusal to abandon the lost Jasmine is indeed a striking image of God’s unfailing and unwavering concern for us all. This image is echoed by the Word of God today: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” Said Bob Goddard: “Be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, and tolerant with the weak and wrong. Sometime in life you have been all of these.” (James Valladares in Your words, O Lord, Are Spirit, and They are Life). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
29) “The Shaking Reality of Advent”: Twenty years after the end of World War II, the German postal system released a series of stamps honoring eight of the countless people who served in the Resistance during the Nazi regime. Among those honored with a commemorative stamp were Lutheran pastor and professor Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Alfred Delp, a Jesuit priest. Delp was editor of the Jesuit monthly The Voice of the Times until it was suppressed in 1941. He then moved to a suburban parish, where he became an address for Jews escaping on the underground route to Switzerland. Delp was eventually arrested and sent to Berlin by the Gestapo, and his lengthy interrogation and torture ended with his death by hanging in February 1945. He penned several pieces in secret and had them smuggled out of the prison. Among them was an essay he wrote shortly before his execution called “The Shaking Reality of Advent” [from Watch For the Light, (Farmington, Pa.: Plough Publishing House, 2001).] In that essay, Delp insisted, “There is nothing we modern people need more than to be genuinely shaken up.” Rather than live in an utterly false and counterfeit security, we need to allow our inmost spirit to be moved by God so that we may begin to live in that movement and disquiet of heart that results when we are faced with God. Face-to-face with God, we begin to see things clearly, as they really are. We begin to see sin for what it is and to recognize ourselves as needing repentance and forgiveness. On this, Advent’s second Sunday, the Biblical authors echo Delp’s ideas as they join their voices to speak a message intended to shake us into a renewed awareness of God’s coming into our lives. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
30) “Why don’t you fix the clock’s inner parts?”: A man once owned a large and expensive clock crafted in Switzerland. He kept the clock in a window, where it was seen by passersby who set their watches by it. But something was wrong with the clock. Its hands habitually showed the wrong time. So, the man spent considerable energy every day in turning the clock’s hands to the right positions. This went on for several years, which kept the owner weary. One day someone suggested, “Instead of wasting your energy in correcting the hands, why don’t you fix the clock’s inner parts?” “What a tremendous idea!” the owner exclaimed in astonishment and delight. “I never thought of that!” [Vernon Howard. Inspire Yourself (Grants Pass, OR: Four Star Books, Inc., 1975).] God did not intend to make a few cosmetic changes by sending Christ into the world. God intended nothing less than to change the whole dynamic of human character. That’s why each Advent we encounter this strange character, John the Baptist, with his call to repentance. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
31) He gathers the lambs: On August 24, 1981, twelve children from Saranac Lake, led by two adults, began to descend from the crest of wooded Ampersand Mountain, which they had just climbed. Ten-year-old Kathryn Dekkers, the last in line, stopped for a minute to tie her shoestrings. When she tried to catch up with the strung-out party she unfortunately took the wrong turn of the trail. In moments she was lost in the depths of the great Adirondack forest. As soon as the leaders noticed that she was not with them, they wisely completed the trip and reported her missing. Everybody was deeply concerned. The last time a hiker had gone astray in that area in 1896, he had never been found. Kathryn’s father and brothers quickly assembled a searching party of 200 to comb the woods. They fanned out from the trail and kept looking for three days. Finally, thanks to a hunch of one of the hunters in the posse they discovered the little wanderer. Kate was hungry and a little scratched-up but otherwise sound in body and mind. In fact, her only real fear was facing her mother. She had lost her socks and was afraid of a big scolding. Now somebody might ask (say a robot): Why should 200 people take three days off and go traipsing through the woods in search of one small child only ten years of age? Anybody with a heart could answer. All the living things of earth that God has created are precious. Most precious among his creatures is the human being, no matter how small. He made us lovingly in his own image and likeness. He made sparrows, too; but we are worth more to him and to our fellowmen than many sparrows. “… Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care.” (Isaiah, 40: 10-11. Today’s first reading). (Father Robert F. McNamara) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) LP/20
From the very beginning everything about John was unique. His mother Elizabeth was related to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Elizabeth conceived six months before Mary. But Mary happened to be a very young girl, indeed almost a child. Most scholars put her probable age at thirteen. It was not unusual for a girl in that day and time to be of childbearing age at such a tender age. Indeed, it is not unheard of even in contemporary America.
Nor was John a respecter of persons or rank. He had an intimidating personality. For that reason the upper class folk rejected both he and his message. You can read about that in Luke 7:29.
Yet, John gathered a respectable following. He attracted many hearers among the lower class, many of whom received baptism by his hands. John even drew a group of disciples around him, which is significant for two reasons. First, some of these disciples later became disciples of our Lord. Secondly, a number of people began to think of John himself as being the long expected Messiah. For that reason John's gospel felt obliged to specifically point out "There was a man sent from God whose name was John, He came for testimony to bear witness to the light that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but he came to bear witness to the light.
3. John pointed the way to Christ.
A traditional accounting of the number of "senses" the human body registers is five: sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. We now know there are between 9 and 21 actual senses, depending on who's counting. But still there are five main ones, and two biggies in the five: sight and sound.
For most of us the first thought we have about our sense of smell is . . . it stinks. Nasty odors tighten our stomachs and ruin our days. But our sense of smell offers us a lot more than obnoxious odors. Olfactory memories are among the most personal and poignant our brain can produce. Not just those sweat socks that send you back to your junior high locker room. Not just that foul stench that lets you know the milk has gone bad. There are a thousand other smells filed away in our minds and hearts and souls that trigger deep responses.
"I'm not going to the movies," the boy replied.
"I'm standing in line," answered the boy, "because I'm lonely, and I like people." Christ came into this lonely world as a friend as well as a Savior. Why can't you and I enter someone's loneliness this Christmas?
His words seemed strange and peculiar at the time. What did he mean, "May Christ be born in you?" At the time she was unsure of what he meant, but now all these years later, sitting beside the Christmas tree, she felt the impact of his words. She discovered that Advent is a time of spiritual preparation. It is also a time of transformation. It is "discovering our soul and letting Christ be born from the waiting heart."