Friday, December 30, 2011

Feast of the Holy Family

While it is difficult to look at Jesus, Mary and Joseph, as a 'normal' family, they can be for us a model of a family and family life.  In our introductions to both Mary and Joseph, the announcement that they were to have a special role in salvation filled them with awe, but also troubled them as well.  Mary and Joseph reached into the depths of their hearts to find peace and strength.

Mary we are told ponders the mysteries that surround her with a peaceful heart.  Joseph we come to understand is a righteous man who goes beyond the law in receiving Mary into his home.  We immediately have an understanding that Mary and Joseph have a deep and abiding relationship with God.  Their faithful response to God is based on truth and understanding.

Sirrah is a wonderful reading today, but St. Paul needs to be look upon very closely today.  Paul offers some practical advice as to how to respond within our human families and all of our relationships.  There are some practical values and virtues which challenge us to understand that we are on holy ground in our encounter with each other.

John Paul II and Benedict XVI have offered some excellent encouragement and advise for us who live in the human family.  Both make mention of the importance of finding Christ in our midst within our household.  More so that, like St. Paul, we have to find it within our power to love with compassion and care, as well as to offer reconciliation.  There are no lack of examples of families which are strained and hurting from past injuries and behaviour.  To be sure reconciliation does not mean forgetting, but it is about healing and setting things aright.

When I was in high school some eons ago, Bishop Doran (then Father Doran) was my marriage and family life teacher.  He had us read C.S. Lewis' "The Four Loves."  Lewis proposes that Affection, Friendship, Romance, and Unconditional Love, are not only founded with Christianity, but are essential within our human relations.  Today we consider our human relationships within the context of a Big Mac and fries.  The image of the Holy Family teaches us that there is a depth which exists that holds sacredness and a mystery.

The challenge today is the ability to treat one another with reverence and respect.  We are more than the sum of our body parts.  Jesus Christ comes into our lives, our human family lives, so that we can experience the healing and peace of God.  With St. Paul we have the ability to offer a blessing rather than a curse.  All this to build up the household of the Lord.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

St John - Apostle and Evangelist

St. John is traditionally one of the first disciples called by Jesus, son of Zebedee, and brother of James the Disciple.  Some suggest that John is the Disciple whom Jesus loved above the otehr disciples.  Throughout the scriptures we see John being included within a smaller group of disciples, with Peter and James.  The Acts of the Apostles certainly includes John as one of the primary evangelizers of the faithful after the resurrectiion.  Moreso we see John as intimately involved in the mission and ministry of the early Church.

As to the Gospel of John, scripture scholar J.L. McKenzie, notes that John reveals the mystery of the Word incarnate.  The most theological of the Gospels, John presents an outline of the Kingdom of God, and of the person of Jesus Christ.  McKenzie notes that Jesus is demonstrated to be the pre-existent Son of God and the Word of the Father, made flesh to live among us.  John's Gospel takes time and effort to demonstrate that Jesus reveals through his words and miracles, the glory of the Father.

John's Gospel does not have a birth narrative.  Jesus begins his ministry at his Baptism.  Like any faithful follower this is a sign of the spirit and an external sign of an internal connection to God the Father.  For John the full reality of Jesus Christ is defined through the passion, death and resurrection.  Jesus cannot be known simply as a human figure within a historical context.  St. John the Evangelist gives us a picture of Jesus as the Christ who has been raised from the dead, and sits in glory at the right hand of the Father in heaven.  The best way that we can come to know Jesus, and by this we  mean to experience Him, is through grace.

The beginning of John's Gospel draws us into the mystery of Jesus the Christ, by presenting Him as the Word made flesh, and the light of which no darkness can overcome.  John has very few miracle stories, but in these stories there is this conflict between those who have seen the light, the believers, and those who do not, the unbelievers.  Even more, those who are healed and are saved are not the religious but persons considered outside of the law and the covenant.  They do not rely on their human attributes to save them, but are opened to the Word of God, and find healing and salvation.

John's challenge to the Church, and those who worship therein, is that we cannot take our liturgy, sacraments, or preaching too lightly.  Jesus does not offer cheap grace.  The cross and resurrection are regular components in everything we do as members of the Body of Christ.  Just as Jesus reminds his listeners that He is about the Father, our (the Church) mission and ministry must be about God and the Kingdom.  Posing for a holy card is not enough for John the Evangelist, our faith and love needs to be authentic.

This is a good week to celebrate this feast.  John wants us to experience the real and living Christ, and change our lives so as to receive what he gives us.  John opens for us a vision of a Kingdom which is about light, happiness, and peace.    

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Blessed and Joyful Christmas

John begins his Gospel by pronouncing "The Word became flesh."  This simple statement allows us to contemplate the mystery which offers us a life of salvation and peace.  In last night's first reading we read from Isaiah, "A people who had walked in darkness have seen a great light."  Certainly that same darkness full of violence, hatred, and despair is still part of our lives.  It is St. John who reminds us that the people preferred the darkness to the light.  This awesome feast challenges us to ponder these mysteries we celebrate so as to use them as a guide and meditation throughout our lives.

The Incarnation asks us to consider that we have a God who is not distant, nor does God observe human drama from some far away place; rather; our awesome God sit in the muck with us so as to embrace our hearts and offer us peace and joy.  This feast is part of that larger plan of salvation whereas St. Paul observes that God does not wish to condemn us but to save us.

It is later in St. John's Gospel that John returns to this image of light.  Jesus Christ, Son of the Father and King of Justice, sets us free from Sin and Evil and allows us to walk as children of the light.  Again St. Paul offers a litany of virtues today, patience, understanding, mutuality, that deliver us from the darkness of Sin, so as to remain oriented to the light which is Christ.  In John's Gospel Jesus speaks about that intimate connection between him and the Father.  When we live in relationship to Jesus Christ, we share in that same relationship.

Pope Benedict XVI spoke about moving beyond the externals of this season and remaining focused on that grace and blessing we experience from the Light of the World.  Benedict stated that we should move through the glitz and sparkle of this season and focus on the meaning of our celebration.  The light of Christ enables us to see clearly what is true and good, and not succumb to the superficial nature of Christmas.

May our celebration bring us to light, happiness, and peace.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

"As Mary's Time Drew Near"

Traditionally this is a day of prayer and fasting.  While normally the actual feast might be celebrated after evening prayer, we will have our first vigil Liturgy at 4:00 p.m.  It will be a huge Mass.  We will have roughly four hundred people here easily.  Of course part of the reason is that we have our children's choir doing our music.  Children plus Christmas equals cute, so we have lot's of families coming here to watch the children.  Ours is also the earliest of the neighboring parishes, so people can go to families or travel tomorrow without having to go to Mass first.

I mention these things because I consider the other people in the story of Christmas who are just sort of there.  As all of these marvelous events were occurring, did they all give praise and glory to God.  I think not.  I have met some people down through the years who love to complain and whine.  I have often thought that if Jesus were to show up in all of his glory, they would be bothered by the noise of the angels, or would be disappointed in the seeming lack of mystery and majesty.  So even back in the day, many folks may have had the experience but missed the meaning.

The potion from St. Augustine's homily, from the Office of Readings, almost sounds like St. Paul.  Prepare yourselves for the coming of the Lord.  We might yawn because we have heard those words so often, but there is a real necessity to constantly call one another to conversion and discipleship.  Consider the apostles who were so close to the activity of Jesus Christ, yet Matthew and Mark will present them as men who often misunderstood what Jesus was about.

One of the first times I went to the Holy Land, I remember standing at the Mount of Olives looking out over Jerusalem, considering Mathew's passage of Jesus crying over the ancient city.  As I stood there I thought about that day when Jesus and his disciples made several treks between that city and the garden.  An ongoing reflection, meditation, and contemplation raises our awareness and draws us closer to those ah ha moments.  Someday hopefully the moms and dads who are recording the cute moments of their child, might be moved by a song, a reading, or the Sacraments.

Isaiah's prose, "A people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light," is the inspiration of my homily this Christmas.  There is a lot of darkness around us.  If anything I hope that this Christmas challenges faith-filled people to share the story of the Incarnation by faithful living, stewardship, and discipleship. We should walk to Mass this Christmas with our Baptismal candles in hand and re-commit ourselves to the light of the world who scatters the darkness of Sin and Evil.

Our time of salvation draws near.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Blessed are You!

Hark! my lover--here he comes
springing across the mountains,
leaping across the hills.
My lover is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Here he stands behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
peering through the lattices.
My lover speaks; he says to me,
"Arise, my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one,
and come!

The First Reading today is taken from the Song of Songs.  This is the beginning of Chapter 2.  The interesting aspect about this text is the two levels it is written on.  It is a love poem in which a mn describes his desire for his spouse, or even spouse to be.  But it is also a poem in which God describes his desire for his beloved - Israel.  The comparison gives us pause as we consider that God's intense love for all of humanity.  God seeks us out so that we might be saved and enjoy His peace and joy. 

The story of the Visitation helps us to understand the faithfulness of Mary as we are told that she dared to believe in God's promise.  Mary and Elizabeth give us an indication that God' plan of salvation is extra-ordinary, though using ordinary human vessals.  As the Magnificat reminds us, God lifts us up out of our lowliness.  More so like with Mary, God pours his holiness into us.  These sacred moments call to mind for us that God desires the entire world to be sanctified and to be made holy. 

The birth of the child points out that God wants newnesss of life in this covenant.  We who live in a culture of death which seems to be apathetic to life can take stock in the unserstading that God is doing some thing new when it comes time to bring salvation to humaity.  Like Mary and Elizabeth hopefully we are able and witness the love of the Father for all men and women.  More so we are challenged to share all that we have seen and heard.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Advent 4

Today we see the heart of the Incarnation.  That the indescribable and beyond words God could take human flesh and become one with us.  The teaching we receive from this exchange between the angel Gabriel and Mary conveys to us that utter openness to the Father's will reveals the presence of God.  Mary becomes a challenge for us today in that we too are called to make the Word of God part of our flesh.

The great song of Mary, the Magnificat, gives us an insight into Mary's spirituality.  Mary summarizes the saving works of God up to this point.  As Mary ponders the great and awesome works of God throughout human history, she easily commits herself to the call of God the Father.  More so because she understands that God has been faithful in the past, God will continue to work the impossible in the present time.

Mary has no problem believing that God can and will become enfleshed.  It is in Mary's very acceptance of the "Mystery hidden" for ages, her very openness to the promise of God's intimacy with us, that yields her pregnancy.  Herein she was fertile to bear the Most high into the world for our salvation and peace.

Mary's faithfulness is our invitation to a life of holiness.  Mary is a model of what we might become if we imitate her unconditional love of the Father.  We too are called to be that chaste son and daughter of Israel, walking on holy ground, welcoming the love of God within us.  But we might add that as faithful disciples we are to be 'God-bearer' to those in our house as well.  Mary runs to her cousin's house to assist her.  There are many folks that we can encounter and share the good news with.  Mary's faith opens our eyes to see that divinity walks around in our midst in human skin.

From the very beginning God desired to live in the tents and fringes of our human life.  Jesus will minister to the 'low-born,' sick, and outcast.  God encounters all men and women, and makes all humanity sacred, but has a special place in his heart for the poor and oppressed.  Matthew's genealogy reminds us that God works with and through even broken vessels.

From the time when Sin entered the world God sought to save us.  God continues to lift us up and sanctify us with his love and mercy.  Ultimately Jesus will suffer, die, and rise from the dead.  The Incarnation points to the reality of God's love and friendship with us.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Keeping the Christ in Christmas

Other bloggers have been chatting about the secularization of the feat of the Incarnation, and the almost bully-like methods by which people have been denouncing Christianity in this celebration.  I am not going to do that so much.

But a few days age, on the Feast of our Lady of Guadalupe, The U.S. Bishops office came out with a communication that they would be renewing their anti-poverty campaign.  (  For those who are old enough we remember the posters that declared that 'God does not make junk.  This season is about the coming of Jesus Christ into our midst to bring us salvation and peace.  What better way to celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ by being aware and responding to the poor, anawim, and the oppressed.

As we try to establish and dismantle creche scenes in the public square, we might want to consider that the 'Advent' people whom we contemplate during this time were people of action.  There was a lot of pondering of the word of God to be sure, but we have Joseph making decisions based on righteousness and justice; and Mary goes to her cousin's house to offer service and support.  Mary and Joseph, with Jesus, will become refugees as they seek to escape the tyranny of King Herod.  

This sort of human struggle continues today.  It is so very important that this Feast reminds us as to the 'why' it is necessary for Jesus to come into our lives in the first place.  Christmas is really a challenge of welcoming the light of Christ into the darkness of our world.  John's first chapter muses upon this as it considers that Jesus came as a light, but people loved the darkness.  As a Christian people we should be bold and courageous in pronouncing our faith, and even more so in living a lifestyle of dignity, compassion and respect.

The end of the year economic statistics show a widening group of families who are at, or just above, the poverty line.  Forecasts for the coming year do not look much better.  St. Peter, in one of his letters, praised his community for their faith and unselfishness.  He indicated that they were a real model of faith for other Christians and for non-believers.  Even better than debating the meaning of Christmas in newspapers and the like, is responding to the needs and concerns of many who share life with us, to uphold the sanctity and dignity of life, and to care for the hurting, anxious, and the afraid.  

Our shepherds have called us to respond in Christ-like fashion towards our brothers and sisters.  In doing so our light shines and dispels the darkness.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Let There be Light

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr.  Legend has it that she refused to be married.  When it was discovered that she was a Christian, Lucy was sent to a brothel.  Again she refused the orders of the guards there and was sentenced to be burned.  The flames did not harm her, so her executioners stabbed her to death instead.  She is a patron of those with eye troubles, presumably because her name means light.  She is a perfect Advent saint in that she maintained her Christian posture even in the face of persecution.

While we do not know what traditions are true, and which are simply stories, from the early Church, we are aware that being a Christian was ominous journey in those early days.  Christians were used as scapegoats for some of the social ills and national problems, and were looked upon with suspicion because of the values and virtues they adhered to.  So much of the growth of that early Church occurred because faithful men and women, and faithful communities, remained centered on the teachings of Jesus Christ, and the tradition of the Gospel.  These early Christians were the kindling of the flame of faith in those early days.

I think that it would be easy to look at the problems in our world today, and even in the Church, and to simply 'go along with the program.'  We speak about Jesus being kind, nice, and loving, so he would certainly understand.  If the Church relaxed its teachings on life, dignity, and holiness, we would certainly be more popular.  But as we will uncover in Mark's Gospel, over the next several months, Christianity is not about a popularity contest.  Our counter-cultural stand on matters of life and a holy lifestyle becomes a stumbling block for those who want a subjective morality.

During this Advent time the prophets point out how Sin and Evil diluted the religious ethos of the day, and eventually the culture along with it.  These prophetic types, along with scripture and the teachings of the Church, draw our attention to the fact that the emperor has no clothes on.  The scandal of the cross points to a life that is lived well for the unfolding of the Kingdom.

In Scandinavian tradition the oldest daughter of a family, while wearing a wreath with candles, serves her family traditional pastry, in order to honor St. Lucy.  Just as the vocation of these martyrs in the early Church was to live faith in a very public manner, our baptism and confirmations asks us to be light and bread for those around us.  May we be so inclined to serve one another in the image and likeness of Jesus Christ.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Advent 3

During a retreat when I was in high school, the retreat director, who was the vice-principal at the time proposed an interesting dilemma.  He placed a freshman student in the center of the gym, and took a twenty dollar bill out of his wallet.  He then asked various students whether they would like to become friends with the freshman, or receive the twenty dollars.  Predictably everyone chose the money over the potential friendship.  In our old age, we would have chosen friendship.

But this was a radical question for us that asked to make some value judgments.  John the Baptist is asking the same questions of those who come out to receive baptism.  Perhaps this is why the religious authorities have such a difficulty with John.  John is challenging the hearts of the believers, asking them to make a decision about God, faith, and the direction of our lives.  For the religious authorities of the time, the sign of a faithful person was to follow the statutes and directions of the law.  John is calling for conversion.

I like to go to St. Francis of Assisi for this example, but take a look at this man who had a very nice life.  More so, we do not have any indication that Francis was a sinful or evil man.  But there was an emptiness which drew him closer to Jesus, and a lifestyle which was radical in compassion and charity.  This conversion and discipleship comes about when we can recognize the significance of the Paschal Mystery in our daily living.  For many of the holy men and women, those with 'Sts' in front of their names and those without, have made bold changes in their lifestyle upon recognizing their own neediness, and the needs of the world.  They become uncomfortable standing on the sidelines.

John today tells his listeners that he is not the light, but rather has come to give testimony to the light.  Of course in doing so he acknowledges where there is darkness in the world.  St. Paul invites us to remain full of joy, to worship and pray regularly, so as to convey a brightness in the world, and to call people out of darkness.  Now this is not some sort of pious joy, but a joyfulness that comes in recognizing and acclaiming Jesus as the Christ. When John does this he draws people into this water bath, as they confess their sins, and commit themselves to the covenant with God.

John's faith is radical to be sure.  It directs folks out of darkness so as to recognize the Lamb of God who takes away the Sins of the world.  So with firm faith and joyful hearts we want to engage Christ in our lives and share that experience with one another.  Our faith might bother some people, like John's does today, but we are called to be daring in announcing the good news.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Immaculate Conception

I like that we begin this feast with the reading from the book of Genesis.  Sin enters the world through the disobedience of men and women, but through our human nature, the Word of God made flesh, we are restored to the relationship with God.  The Immaculate Conception is that Mary is not affected by the brokenness of Original Sin.  Mary who becomes the Theotokos, the sacred 'God-carrier, has been set 'aside' so as to be a worthy place for the Prince of Peace, Christ the King.

Now while we do not readily associate evangelization with this feast, it does present itself very nicely.  Both Pope John Paul II, and our present Pontiff, Benedict XVI, have made it clear that our announcing the Good News is of utmost importance in our world toady.  Many people have either moved away from faith-filled living, or have never heard the message of Jesus Christ.  More so we live in a place where there is real hostility towards truth, values, and justice.  Human dignity and respect are under attack.

In his post-modern era everyone is right, and no one is wrong.  In the news recently people had protested the actions taken against an individual who was knowledgeable of criminal and harmful behaviour.  We hold in high esteem those in the public spotlight those whose lifestyles are less than exemplary, and deride those who stand for goodness and truth.

So today we celebrate the unconditional Yes of Mary.  Here is a woman who began her journey being troubled and confused.  The angel told her that she was "Blessed" and "Highly Favoured."  In a stable in Bethlehem she is filled with joy as she witnesses the visitors and excitement of this child.  When Jesus is lost in the temple she feels the first pangs of losing a child.  Jesus' ministry delights and frightens her at the same time.  The sorrow at the cross is overwhelming to be sure.

Mary becomes an 'everyman,' and 'everywoman' as she experiences the joys and sorrows of life.  But that vision of an angel, and the words spoken to her remain constant in her life.  One can almost imagine that she returns to these mysterious experiences again and again as a source of hope and of joy.  In the Magnificat she praises the faithfulness of God.

Like Mary, people of faith who recognize that they are blessed by God, become witness of the faith they profess.  In telling the story about Mary we  also tell about this faithfulness that God has in each of us.  We too can proclaim the greatness of God when we come to know that God has done great things for us.  And like Mary, when we encounter the joys of love, and the deep sorrows of loss, we know that we can rely on Jesus - God saves his people.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Preacher St. Ambrose

St. Ambrose lived during the fourth century, born to a government official in Trier, Germany, he went on to become ordained a priest, and was eventually Bishop of Milan.  Ambrose was known for his defense of the faith through his writings and preaching.  St. Augustine was greatly inspired by Ambrose and was eventually baptized.  Ambrose had a strong interest in the sacred liturgy, and the study of scripture.  He had written several hymns to be used during Mass, and the fourth Eucharistic Prayer is attributed to St. Ambrose.

During his time there was a heresy known as Arianism.  The basic thought here is that within the Holy Trinity, Christ is less than the Father.  The priest who began this movement, Arius, was motivated by his interpretation of the scriptures and went as far as stating that at one time Christ did not exist.  Obviously this contradicts Christology and the very foundation of the teaching of the Church.  Eventually the Council of Nicea countered the claims made by this group.  One of the main preachers who defends the Church position was Ambrose.

St. Ambrose was also known for his compassion and generous heart.  It is said that he gave much of his personal wealth to the poor, and lead the Church to serving and caring for the poor and anawim.  The opening prayer today speaks of Ambrose having the courage of an apostle.  He certainly moved peoples lives and challenged their faith.  More so the early writings about him speak about his apostolic zeal and pastoring the people he served.  It appears that Ambrose was not a 9-5 churchman, nor did he spend his time behind a desk.

As we think about Ambrose it is not hard to think about our own role in professing faith clearly and soundly.  If we could have some of the same courage, think of how different our Church would be.  But we might also take time to pray for our Bishops and Pastors in the Church.  Ask God to fill them with the Holy Spirit and grant them wisdom and right judgement.  encourage and support your Bishops and Pastors too.  (Pastors like going to peoples homes for dinner)

In Advent we contemplate light in darkness and the newness of the reign of God.  Ambrose certainly was one of the unfolders of the truth as given us by Jesus Christ.  Ambrose was certainly an outstanding and courageous Shepherd in the Church.  Thanks be to God for giving us holy men and women as models of faith. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Peace is like a River

Several weeks ago about 300 religious leaders joined Pope Benedict XVI at Assisi, for the the Interfaith gathering for peace.  Pope Benedict called for the 'purification of religion,' and acknowledged that in the past Christians had used force to advance Christianity.  More so today political extremists attempt to promote their agendas through religious means.

This is the 25th such gathering of such leaders.  In the past Blessed John Paul II received criticism for engaging in prayer with non-Christian leaders.  John Paul, like Benedict today, declared the necessity of gathering together those leaders who engage men and women in a common belief and understanding of worship, so that the ideals of peace might be conveyed to the peoples of the world.  This year for the first time there was included those who consider themselves non-believers, or seekers.

In this the season of Advent there is something quite insightful about asking peoples of various cultures, understandings, and theologies to consider making peace in the world.  To be sure we understand that peace is not simply the absence of violence, but it is an interior conversion which holds men and women, and really all of creation, as something very sacred and holy.  Consider St. Francis of Assisi who refers to various aspects of the cosmos as  brothers and sisters.  Coming to a commonality and common purpose is the first part of forging peacemaking in the world today.

It was Bishop Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, who suggested that we do not have to be strangers to each other.  Williams comments that religious leaders have a task to struggle "against a world still obsessed with fear and suspicion, still in love with the of a security based on defensive hostility and still capable of tolerating or ignoring massive loss of life among the poorest through war and disease."  This prayer time reaffirms for us that we really do stand on sacred ground.  Made in the image and likeness of God, Bishop Williams, as well as the other leaders acknowledged the need to know our neighbors.

Our reading of the sacred scripture over these last few days of Advent will reveal a prophetic ministry that calls for peace and well being of all people.  The coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ challenges us with the teachings and humility of the Lord of life and Prince of Peace.  For us Christians we understand that Jesus' good works are not meant to be observed in and of themselves, but to raise our minds and thoughts to a higher realm.

This religious gathering is a sign and symbol of the unity and communion which is about God.  It begins to help us understand that we cannot afford to nurture our differences, since too many are suffering and dying because of it.  Religions can and should be a starting point for healing, forgiveness, and love. As Christians the Daystar asks us to be light to the nations and instruments of peace.  We can take a cue from our leadership and learn to love one another as God loves us.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Advent 2

Of the synoptic Gospels Mark is unique in that there is no infancy narrative.  Perhaps part of the reason is that, first of all, Mark has a sense of urgency in making know the Gospel message.  While the story of Jesus' birth is wonderful to consider, the more important matter is the theme of conversion and discipleship.  Secondly perhaps because the ideal of discipleship is so strong for Mark, he wants to set the stage from the very beginning with the message of John the Baptist.

John the Baptist is quite a character to be sure.  He presumably looks like a 'wild man' with camel hair clothes, and munching on insects.  But it is his message that is most disturbing for those who come out into the desert to hear him.  Like Isaiah and Elijah before him John will accuse the very people who listen to him of being responsible for the Sin and Evil that is around them.  If they observe poverty, brokenness, religious apathy, division within communities, then they need to look at their very selves to see who is responsible.

John is speaking to his hearers and us as he offers a litany of social and religious responsibility.  The water bath is an external sign of an internal pledge to right wrongs, and to seek a moral and ethical pathway.  There was a song from back in the 80s by Mister Mister, entitled something like, 'The Living Years.'  The premise of the song is of a man who would like to reconcile with his now deceased father, realizing that, that work needs to be done while we are still here on earth.  John's preaching is about a discipleship which unfolds the Kingdom of God here and now.

In several verses from now we see John lambasting the scribes and pharisees for coming to be baptized.  John challenges them to show some sort of sign of their sincerity of conversion.  While Advent is not as strong in the reconciliation sense, it does ask us to prepare ourselves to receive Christ into our lives.  Again we should return to the last weeks of Ordinary time in which we hear the stories of un-motivated stewards and foolish virgins.  And it was Monday this past week we recall Jesus' challenge, "Not everyone who cries out Lord Lord, will enter the Kingdom of heaven."

The candles of the Advent wreath are sort of a countdown until Christmas, but even more so a reminder to be light in our winter-like world.  Our discipleship might be modeled on the wild-man prophet John the Baptist.  But in any form we take on the responsibility of stewardship and proclaiming good news in our homes and communities.