Advent II

December 4, 2022

1st Homily:  See the bigger picture and produce good fruit

Today’s gospel focuses our attention on supposedly a cousin/relative of Jesus, John the Baptist.

He was a “lightning rod” kind of a person who emerged in the Roman Province of Palestine in the early first century.

He lived in the desert area south of Jerusalem.  There was no such designation of “The Holy Land” or “Israel” in the First Century.  It was an occupied territory, occupied by the Roman military, using Jewish political personalities to administer it and “keep the peace.”  There was always tension between the Temple Institution and the occupiers.  There were constant insurrections and attempts to be freed from Roman occupation.  There was a strong Temple influence over the life of the Jewish people.  There was a religious elite, but it was a tired and dead system.

Into which, John appears and starts to call the people of the countryside back to God, the Yahweh of their tradition.  While he dressed simply and strangely, he had one simple message: “Prepare the Way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”

I am sure that he criticized the Temple institution and its representatives for the lackluster (or no) spiritual leadership – as Jesus would later.  The religion imposed all kinds of legal religious customs, but very little spiritual help or comfort.

The Gospel tells us today that whatever he was trying to do to get people on the right track in their relationship with God was getting a hearing.  Thousands of people were making the long, hot journey, walking miles to be with him and to hear him.  He kept telling them over and over: “Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance,” and not to presume that they had a sound, personal relationship with God.

How many Catholics have experienced the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire?  That we were baptized once is admirable, but do we live our baptism?  Are we still following Jesus in a personal way and as a spiritual family?

In this Advent-Christmas-Epiphany season, we have all these customs, stories, music and traditional foods that have taken on a life of their own.  Most of it is separated from Jesus.  It is now a holiday season that has taken on a life of its own, disconnected from Jesus.  It is a Hallmark season and an opportunity, hopefully to express some authentic love.  It is now so embedded in our culture, that it would continue if there was a Jesus or not.  It simply is what it is.

When John the Baptist calls us to “repent” today, he is not asking us to change our behavior or get rid of our sins and selfishness.  John is inviting us to see the bigger picture, to re-know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who models for us how to live in the light of God, who wishes to connect us with His Father, who calls to live a life that has real meaning, to receive God’s love in our own life and to share God’s love from our life.

So, so, do we hear a small, whispering voice, deep inside us saying: Prepare a way for Jesus to enter and to help straighten out my paths with his path, with his presence?

When God became a human being in Jesus, God also wanted to become a human being in each one of us.  That is what happened to us in our Baptism.

So the voice of Jesus is crying out to us today: “Open your life and your heart to me.  St. Paul would add today: “Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you.”  That is how we do it.

The Prophet Isaiah reminds us that we are like a stump, yet from our roots a bud shall blossom.  He was speaking of a new child who would succeed to the throne of Israel’s King.  He was hoping and dreaming for a new king upon whom the Spirit of God would rest and dwell.

So today is a good opportunity to imagine ourselves as a stump and to wonder about how we grow and will thrive.  Where is our Spirit of Wisdom and understanding, counsel and strength, knowledge and respect for the Lord?

Where are the contradictions within our lives and how can we reconcile them?

So, consider to invite the Jesus who once came, to come to you again, to revive your relationship with Him, with the Kingdom of all his possibilities.

Imagine this, put yourself in the manger and become ever more who Jesus wants you to be!


2nd Homily: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”

There is a party atmosphere focus to the Christmas season like no other, and then there is a spiritual focus like no other.

We begin the spiritual focus that St. John the Baptist calls “Repent”.  The focus of his “Repent” is not about our spiritual and personal habits, our sins or our failures.

John invites us to make a real shift of our attention.  The question is not whether we believe that Jesus is the Son of God who came to save us from going off the deep end of life, but rather to open up our life and energies for life to include a very personal relationship for Jesus in our own lives.  Has God come there?  Does God live there?  Do I feel the presence of God there?

He warns the Pharisees and Sadducees to produce good fruit, that to believe in Jesus is to be like Jesus – filled with a spirit that comes from God which can be seen and felt.

A true spirit of repentance does not let us sit on our laurels or appeal to the past like people often do, “my grandparents helped to build this church.”

“Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths,” is the work of the present moment, each day.  And sometimes, get out of the way of the Lord– not being an obstacle.

St. Paul speaks today of endurance and encouragement.  Our greatest challenge, he says is “to think in harmony with one another, in keeping up with Christ Jesus.”

Friendship with Jesus is very practical, St. Paul writes, to create a spirit of welcome, love and service.  “Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you,” St. Paul wrote.

Christmas is about making connections, between ourselves and Jesus, between ourselves and family members, between ourselves and many others.

Today, John the Baptist is inviting us to see the bigger picture, to re-know who Jesus is, to adopt his spirit, to connect, to be enlightened – to receive God’s gifts, to receive God’s life and love and perspective, and to be so touched, that we would do the same to others.

So, I invite you to listen to God whispering to you: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”

“Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”

“Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”

Where are our paths taking us?  Where are we going?  Who are we taking with us?

May the Spirit of the Lord rest upon us and share with us His spirit of wisdom, and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of true knowledge and of respect for the Lord who comes, who is here!

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