THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT--12/16/12
READING: LK 3:10-18
READING: LK 3:10-18
CHRISTMAS IN PALESTINE 30 A.D.
On the thirtieth Christmas, in the year 30 A.D. a woman went walking by the Jordan River. She had come visiting relatives in a nearby town, and now she was walking by the Jordan River. It was a chaotic time in Palestine. The Romans were as oppressive as ever, there was talk of Messiahs in the land, there was much talk of violence, of endings, of death--as if the sky was going to fall and crush the mountains into the valleys until the earth was flatter than a pancake. I don't know if that was really going to happen, but it was how people felt.
This woman was old by the standards of her day, about 45, with wisps of gray in her hair. She was not beautiful any longer but there were still hints in that gentle face of the beauty she had once been. She was walking by some scrub brush when she noticed a sparrow lying on the ground with its spindly little legs sticking straight up in the air. "What are you doing?" asked the woman as much to herself as to that little bird. But to her surprise she thought she heard the bird distinctly say, "I'm trying to keep the sky from falling! People are acting like the world is coming to an end. I'm trying to keep the sky from falling!" And the woman laughed gently and said, "Do you really think you will keep the sky from falling with those little legs of yours?" And the sparrow replied, "One does what one can; one does what one can."
The woman thought about this all the way to the Jordan River. She met a crowd there--they had come to see the new prophet, John the Baptist. John was telling the people that every valley would be filled in, every mountain would be laid low, people needed to prepare the way of the Lord! He was telling the soldiers how to live with honor, tax collectors how to live justly, husbands how to treat wives--he was giving everyone advice on how to prepare. "It won't matter," said a Pharisee to the woman. "The world as we know it is coming to an end--evil has got the upper hand. If God wanted evil to be gone, he'd make it gone. Our puny efforts don't matter much."
"No," said the woman, "you are wrong. The Baptist is right. To do the little things, to make each day better, that will keep the darkness away, that will prepare the way of the Lord." "And you,'" sneered the Pharisee, "why should you know so much? What have you ever done with your life that has made the world a better place?"
Just then, they heard the Baptist cry out, "There is one to come who is mightier than I. He will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire." The woman said to the Pharisee, "What have I done? I gave birth to a Son and raised him well!" "So have millions of other women," sneered the Pharisee, "'big deal--what difference does it make?" And the voice of John the Baptist was heard again, "There he is! Behold the Lamb of God! Hear him!" And the woman's Son appeared by the side of John the Baptist, and the mother smiled at the Pharisee and said, "What difference does it make that I had a Son? Well, sir, one does what one can; one does what one can."
I. Does Daily Goodness Matter?
A. As strange as it may seem, what that story is hinting at is what John the Baptist says clearly in the Gospel today--DO WHAT YOU CAN, AND MUCH WILL BE DONE. John the Baptist doesn't say, "Be a monk, be a desert prophet, give up your livelihood, sell your house, wait for the end of the world." John the Baptist doesn't ask us to live some kind of mournful life of fasting and penance all the time. John the Baptist says, "Transform, change your lives now, by keeping you eyes open to ways of doing good in your families, in your businesses. Do what you can to bring the Kingdom of God to the people you meet." John the Baptist says, if we see a poor person--we help him. John the Baptist tells us not to cheat, don't lie, look out for the other person. In whatever we do, we have to look for the chance to drive away the darkness we see around us.
B. I may not be able as an individual to wipe out crime, but I can teach young people about reverencing life and treating others with dignity. I may not be able to stop poverty in this nation, but I could reach out to a needy family, feed the homeless, or help a sick neighbor or friend and teach my neighbors to do the same. I may not be able to stop all the anger and rage that I see around me, or the cheating and dishonesty, but I can control my own anger, I can be honest, and I can teach the young to be the same. Do you see what I mean? If I do these things, I will let loose into the world people of sufficient numbers who will stop some of the evils we find around us. I cannot do everything, but I do what I can and I believe from what I do, much will be done, much will be accomplished.
II. Practical Application
A. If we do what we can to bring goodness into our part of the world, into our lives, then we will be bringing Jesus to others this Christmas. Why don't we sweep our little corner of the world clean from the darkness of jealousy, the blight of gossip, the plague of lying, the sickness of cheating, the violence of anger? This is called grass-roots morality--morality from the bottom up. Starting with ourselves and those around us.
B. John the Baptist has told us to repent, and we know what that means--it's time for the Sacrament of Penance. Two times are left, Monday evening at 7 pm for our Parish Celebration of that Sacrament and next Saturday at 11 AM. Grass roots morality starts with recognizing that we need to be down at the Jordan River with John the Baptist. We need to be in that group that he is talking to. We need to take a very serious look at how we are living our lives, not just the things we've done wrong, but the things we have neglected to do.
C. If we start with ourselves and how we relate to family and friends we can help steamroll goodness into the world. To remember that we are the hands of Christ, we are the voice of Jesus in the world today--this is the preparation we need to prepare our hearts for Christmas. Look at Mary. She was a peasant girl. She didn't recline on couches or lord it over her friends saying, "Hey, did you hear, I'm the Mother of God!" She spent all her time raising her Son, teaching him how to speak, to walk, to live in this world. Day by day, hour by hour, she did what she could, and look what she accomplished. On that thirtieth Christmas, if she really was down by the Jordan River, imagine how proud she was of her boy. She knew she had made a difference, even if the people were not yet aware of that. But they would be, oh, they soon would be. You think of that, you who have sons and daughters. You think of that, you who believe that you don't matter. You think of that you who feel you are too old to amount to much anymore. DO WHAT YOU CAN, AND MUCH WILL BE DONE! Each of us doing our part could help destroy the evil that remains in this world. Do what you can, so that Christ may transform the world, so that Christ may drive away the darkness, so that Christ may light our lives this Christmas.