|December 15-16, 2018, Third Sunday in Advent, Cycle C|
What should we do?
Three different groups ask John that question. And he gives each of them a very pointed answer. One might think this emphasis on "doing" is a bit out of character in the middle of this season of Advent, which is a season of waiting, of expectation, of anticipation. But that would because I didn't really understand what we were supposed to be waiting for.
The obvious thing we are waiting for in the season of Advent is Christmas: the birth of Jesus. But wait, how can we be waiting for that? Jesus was born 2000 years ago. Maybe it is something else.
Another thing we hear about as we approach the feast of Christmas is that we are waiting for, preparing for, the coming of Jesus into our own lives. But... doesn't Jesus come into our lives already, in the sacraments of baptism and confirmation, and certainly week after week in Eucharist. So I don't need to wait for that.
Oh yes, the readings over the last few weeks of Ordinary time and the first few weeks of Advent remind me that we are waiting for the second coming of Christ. That hasn't happened yet, right? But we just heard a few weeks back Jesus telling us that no one knows when that is going to happen so how are we to wait for that? Do we just stand around waiting because nothing we can do will change anything?
I would suggest that this is very much the same mindset as the crowds that came out to see John the Baptism. They were so oppressed, so beaten down, and beaten up, by generations of domination first by the Greeks and then by the Romans. They had been plundered and pillaged, burdened with taxes and forced labor, watched as the temple was turned into a pagan temple, and saw family and friends killed for circumcising their sons. So all they could do was wait and hope that the promised Messiah would finally come and take care of all their problems. Something about John gave them a glimmer of hope that something was happening and so it was if they woke from a sleep of just waiting to ask what should we do?
As I mentioned a few weeks ago in my homily, the apocalyptic language we have been hearing about the coming of the Son of Man, the second coming of Christ, is not just the coming of Jesus. It is Jesus as the head but us as the body of Christ. And, as Paul tells us we are to grow into the full stature of Christ so that the body measures up to the head. In other words, the coming of the kingdom of God is not about humans waiting for Jesus to come in power and glory, but about God waiting for humans to grow into the fullness of the Body of Christ. Knowing this changes the way that we wait in Advent.
We do not wait as inactive bystanders because then the kingdom will never come. We need to wait actively. I would suggest that we wait the way a couple expecting a baby waits. There is nothing they can do to hurry the coming of the baby but they do not wait as inactive bystanders. The mother to be watches her diet and environment to make sure they are healthy for the baby in her womb. They prepare a place for the baby to live in their home. Often, to do this, they have to get rid of other things taking up space to have a place for the baby to live, or that might be harmful to an infant who will quickly become a toddler. They furnish it with a crib, dressing table, diaper pail, and all the other things that are needed to make it a warm, safe, and nurturing place for an infant to live.
We too are to wait as active participants. We are to prepare a place in our lives for Christ to live in us more fully right now, fulfilling our baptismal call to put on Christ. In order to do this, we too often have to clear out the things we have accumulated in order to make room for Christ.
I will just finish by trying my best to channel John the Baptist, giving you three very specific answers to the question, "What should we do?" I know I don't have on animal skins, and I wore socks and shoes today but I have eaten crickets and wild honey. So here are my three response to "What should we do?"
The first is to enter into this celebration of Eucharist as full, active, and conscious participants. Let your whole being give thanks and praise to God. Open your hearts, and minds as well as your mouths to let Christ enter into you, and change you more fully into the Body of Christ.
The second is to take time this week to read the birth narrative of Jesus in the first 2 chapters of Luke's Gospel. It should not take you more than 15 minutes. If you have children, read it to them, or have them read it to you. Then take 15 more minutes to sit and reflect on it.
The third is to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation. Yes, go to confession. What better way to prepare ourselves to be active participants with Christ in establishing God's kingdom here on earth? Of getting rid of anything in us that keeps Christ from entering more fully?
If we do this, then I promise that we will join with Paul in saying: Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near ... [Let] the peace of God that surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.