Sunday, December 15, 2019

If you're discouraged, you don't have to be alone (Sunday homily)

In today’s Gospel, the Lord Jesus puts before us
the life and example of his friend and cousin, John the Baptist. 
That is very striking when you think about it.

But then I realized: that’s what Jesus does all the time.
That’s what it means to be a saint: someone Jesus can point to and say:
Here is how it works. This is what holiness looks like.

And as I thought about John the Baptist, a book came to mind.
You’ve heard of it: The Lord of the Rings.
Maybe you’ve read it; but if you haven’t, 
It’s about a particular ring that is immensely powerful,
and therefore involves great temptation for all concerned.

And it’s about certain people who must undertake 
a journey and a task of the greatest peril. 
Everything depends on their courage and self-sacrifice 
and their perseverance.

Time after time, the right thing to do seems to be madness,
Because it means saying no to pride and power and ego.
And in case the point is not obvious:
This, too, it what it means to be a saint.
In God’s Providence, anything is possible; but generally speaking, 
the path of a saint is one of plodding along faithfully.

John the Baptist was the last in a long line of faithful witnesses.
From Noah and Abraham, Jacob and Joseph, 
Moses and Joshua, some – but not enough – of the kings;
Ezra and Nehemiah; Samuel and all the prophets and many more.
Each one was a link in a long chain, and the last witness was John,
Who said not, the Messiah will come someday, but rather:
Here is right now: Behold the Lamb of God!

So often you and I feel that we don’t count very much.
And on a planet of seven billion souls, and in the long march of history,
Maybe it’s true: you and I are just one brief blip.
Who will remember us?

Jesus! Jesus will remember you and me.

John the Baptist really only had one task: be faithful. That was it!
And of course, that’s my task and yours, too.

John’s question to Jesus is a little startling. Was he wavering?
He has been faithful, and now he is in prison, 
and maybe he wonders if it was all a colossal mistake?

And Jesus sends a message. In short: hang in there, John!
Don’t give up. You weren’t wrong. 

If you get discouraged, Jesus has the same word for you.
You aren’t wrong to be faithful.
And if you need some company, invite Jesus along.

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