Saturday, December 08, 2007

John the Baptist stood out--do you? (Sunday homily)

One time I was giving a talk to some junior high kids,
explaining John the Baptist to them.
When I asked them, later, what they remembered,
they said,
“Oh yeah, that was that crazy guy,
who wore camels hair and ate bugs!”

No question, John the Baptist stands out;
even in his own time.
While everyone else is just going along,
here’s John, crying out,
“brood of vipers!” and “repent!”

While I don’t recommend camels’ hair or locusts,
still, you and I, as Christians, are supposed to stand out,
and at times, stand apart, from our society and its values.

So, for example, consider our buying habits.
There is the practice of “voting with your pocketbook”—
from time to time, we might decide not to buy
certain products because of the way they advertise,
because of the causes they support,
or the way they treat their employees.*

We can’t boycott everyone;
but still, it can be a way to make some difference—
particularly if we tell the business:
saying something in the store, or writing a letter.

I’ve mentioned this before:
that it is very troubling the way some clothing companies,
the way some in the entertainment industry,
target our young people,
pushing the boundary of what’s decent.
I think of Abercrombie, MTV and others.

Parents, I imagine you feel alone sometimes,
having to say “no” to what the culture promotes.
Just like John the Baptist.

Here’s a question, especially for our younger folks.
In a couple of weeks, we really hope St. Nicholas
will be bringing us a new Nintendo, or a new bicycle.

What if, on Christmas Day,
you found a card from St. Nicholas, that said,
“I took your present to a child in Haiti.
Merry Christmas!”?

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with gift-giving.
But I remember the Christmas that happened
at our house, only it was a child in South America.
I don’t remember many presents I ever got,
but I remember that girl who was helped.

John the Baptist was a startling figure,
and I am sure people reacted in his day,
the way those kids I mentioned did: “that crazy guy!”
That will happen to any of us when we stand up.
But people will also be drawn to your example.
You may feel funny making the sign of the cross,
and saying grace at a restaurant;
but that simple gesture is a powerful witness.

I think about those who choose to give their lives
in religious orders as a brother or sister.
We are blessed to have our dear Sisters of Charity—
Sister Ginny, Sister Joan Clare, and Sister Mary Alice.

Their lives are a constant reminder; and an invitation.
When Sisters and brothers take vows,
and embrace a life of celibacy, a life of poverty,
and a life of service.
The world doesn’t understand that;
until you realize that it points to a world to come;
it shows the world that we must have
found something truly awesome, in Jesus Christ!

Just like John the Baptist, who said:
there is one coming, who will baptize you
in the Holy Spirit, and in Fire, and,
“I must decrease, that he may increase.”

There are some here who wonder if God is calling you
to be a Sister, a brother, a deacon or a priest.
And sometimes others, without meaning to,
discourage that: they will say, “it’ll be too hard”;
or, “you’ll be lonely,” or, “do something more meaningful”!

Well, it is hard; but being a quitter,
backing away from a challenge, is even harder to live with.
“Lonely”? I’m anything but. I have all of you!
You are my family!
“Meaningful?”
Our dear Sisters of Charity sow seeds of faith
that will be harvested both in this life, and for eternity.
What could be more meaningful?

By the way—remember, today,
you have the opportunity to say thank you
to all our religious brothers and sisters
who have served us so generously.
Today we take up the collection
for their retirement and health care needs.
You are always generous; for them, I say thank you.

Yes, John the Baptist stood out;
he might even have seemed a comical figure.
But his life of prayer and penance gave him a clear eye:
he saw through all that impressed everyone else,
because he saw things in the light of eternity.
Above all, St. John wanted us to be ready for Christ.
He didn’t want anyone to miss the King.
In his time, he called out, the King is coming;
but for us, the King is here!

* Somewhere at this point I ad-libbed some comments on justice, keying from the first reading and psalm, but I cannot recall just how I addressed it--something about Christ bringing justice, and we are sent to do the same.

4 comments:

Mrs Jackie Parkes MJ said...

Yes Fr we are standing out..see my post on gift-giving..people think we're freaks! Great!

Anonymous said...

Father,

Thank you!!!

wWolf said...

Am I the only one, who thinks you should publish? like on paper, man!

Easter A. said...

Fr. Martin,
What boldness! Just what we need to hear this Advent! I am including your blog to the sidebar of my new blog: A Tribute to Our Priests.

Thanks, Fr. Martin!