SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT--12/9/12
READINGS: BARUCH 5:1-9; LUKE 3:1-6
I. The Baptist
A. Out of the desert he came, dressed in animal skins, smelling like the bone frying heat of the hot sun that tortured that land. The message he shouted to his people was a message born of years of prayer in that desert, years of listening to God, and that message, like the man who preached it was stripped to the bone, lean and strong: Prepare, repent, for the Lord is coming!
B. John the Baptist, that prophet everyone likes to admire but no one likes to come close to, represents the message we must take home with us this second Sunday of Advent: The beautiful, wonderful Kingdom of Peace of Joy of Love is coming, but we will never see it if we are not ready, and being ready takes specific preparation.
C. John's a really strange man: He is harsh, demanding, uncompromising all the while he is talking about Paradise. Why is this? Why has our faith always sounded like John the Baptist?
1. When I grew up, the priests and nuns who taught me gave me a vision of heaven that would put tears in your eyes it was so beautiful. And yet, they also taught that the way to heaven was not that simple--we couldn't live as we pleased, we couldn't do anything we wanted, we had to be sorry for our sins, and try to walk in the way God intended. Their message was just like the Baptist's: sweat and joy; preparation now, celebration later.
2. Nowadays we have lost the biblical truth of the Baptist's message. Many of us believe that preparation for the Kingdom, getting ready for heaven means simply wanting to go there--all we have to do to receive Paradise is simply want it.
3. Well, that was not the message of the Baptist. Make no mistake, he said, the Kingdom was coming but only for those who were ready.
II. The Wisdom of Luke
A. Notice how this gospel opens. In the fifteenth year of the reign of the Emperor Tiberius, when Herod was Tetrarch of Galilee...Luke sets this gospel message in the context of world history. When the prophet Baruch was writing his prophecy, he could have started it, "In the year Darius was King of Persia, I heard this prophecy from the Lord." My point is, our faith is sunk smack dab in the middle of history and does not apologize for it. It would be legitimate to start this gospel out today, "In the second year of the second decade of the new Millennium, in the second month of the reign of Barak Obama, when the country was in chaos and the economy was teetering on the brink of possible recession, John the Baptist once again spoke his prophecy to the people, "Prepare the Way of the Lord!"
B. Why is this important? Because sometimes we think our faith was made for another time, another place. Believe me, John the Baptist's cry and Baruch's prophecy would have sounded idiotic to the Romans or the Persians. Just like our faith sounds very strange and wierd to many people of our day. Instead of apologizing for our faith, or trying to explain it as blandly as possible to fit into our secular culture, why don't we just do what the listeners of Baruch's prophecy or John the Baptist's challenge did? Either accept it or reject it.
C. I'm tired of lukewarm Christianity, and fed up with the constant criticism from within of our own faith. Yes, it's difficult to be Christian, yes it's hard to be Catholic, but being faithful to the Baptist's cry of Prepare the Way of the Lord takes a lot of discipline and a lot of sacrifice. We just are not going to get to heaven easily. Salvation is not going to be handed to us on a silver platter. Nor is the world ever going to accept the reasonableness of our faith.
1. There are always going to be enemies of our faith.
2. There are always going to be temptations that offer us pleasure now--easy sex, easy drugs, easy money. We forget that times were no different back when John the Baptist lived. And because we fall sometimes, we make the mistake of thinking that because we fall, fail, or sin, the standards must be changed, not ourselves. John the Baptist serves as a reminder that we are called to live up to an ideal, not drag values or morality down to the lowest, basest human feeling or emotion.
D. We are called not to run away from the world, but with quiet confidence to live our faith in the midst of it. To prepare while we work, to prepare while we meet and socialize with people who do not believe as we believe. It seems to me that most of the preaching of the gospel we do is by our daily example. And it's here that Advent really challenges us:
1. The Gospel tells us that our faith must be lived now, in a secular world that does not know the truth. Do we really live in Christian way?
2. The Gospel tells us that one of the major ways of preparation is repentance, repentance for the times when we have forgotten that to be a follower of Christ means to be different, to stand as an example to the world. Do we have the courage to repent? If we do not have time to repent, we do not have time for Christ. Again, I urge each of us to look at the Sacrament of Penance. When John the Baptist said, Repent and prepare the way of the Lord, people flocked to the Jordan river to be forgiven. Our Sacrament of Penance can do the same thing. Put your money where your mouth is. If you say you are for Christ, be for Jesus. If you say you are really sorry for your sins, prove it and come to the Sacrament of Penance, if you say you welcome the Christ Child this Christmas, show it by your works of charity and love not just for strangers but for the whole family and neighborhood you live in.
E. Clearly, the message today is: no heaven for the complacent, no paradise for the lazy, no kingdom for the smug, self-righteous person who thinks God owes him or her. God is coming to those who with humble hearts say--Lord, you love me, this I know; I'm sorry for the times I have forgotten your claim on me; forgive, and help me walk in your way, so that I can prepare for your coming into my life this Christmas.