Sunday, December 12, 2021

John the Baptist and Kingdom Joy (Sunday homily)

When John was stomping around on the banks of the Jordan, 

he was a spectacle. 

He wore strange clothes – camel hair – and he ate locusts. 

Just to be clear: that’s not just weird today, 

that was strange back then.

And John knew that. 

He was like the people you meet who are in religious life. 

They wear funny clothes, just like I wear a cassock: 

it makes you stand out. That’s part of the point.

John was trying to make clear that he stood apart. 

When you make the Sign of the Cross in a restaurant, 

you’re doing the same, 

which is why some people don’t want to be seen saying grace.

John was willing to be a spectacle. 

And you can just imagine some number of the people who came out, 

came for that reason, to see a show.

I can just picture some teenage boys, standing off to one side, 

whispering and snickering, can’t you?

And then John would pick somebody out in the crowd.

He’d fix his eyes right on you, pinning you to the wall!

“You soldier! You farmer! You student! You parent! 

You came to see me dump water on people 

but one is coming after me who's going to pour fire!

Are you ready for Him?”

And notice when John was challenging people, 

the Gospel said it was “good news”: why? 

The keynote of this Sunday, 

in the readings and in the prayers, is joy, rejoicing. 

That's what the rose-colored vestments signify. 

Let me just explain that joy isn't the same as feeling up,

being in a good mood, being all sparkly and bubbly.

If you've lost someone you love, if you have work problems, 

family problems, health problems, or other issues, 

it can be really hard to be chirpy and cheerful, 

especially at this time of year. 

So, just to be clear, that’s OK.

You have permission not to be all Suzy Sunshine. 

Because joy isn’t about a mood or your personality.

It’s down deep, like bedrock, and it doesn’t change from day to day.

This is where what John the Baptist was saying ties in.

What John was offering is the path to true joy:

getting right with God; getting right with your parents, your family, 

your friends, and the people you work with.

So now, this is my John the Baptist-spectacle moment.

I want to do whatever it takes to grab you.

What do you think?

Should I march up and down the aisle like a TV preacher, 

hooting and hollering? That could be fun!

Oh, what a scandal! People would talk!

The point is, I want you to hear that invitation.

This sermon isn’t for someone else, it’s for YOU. 

I may not be able to look everyone in the eye, 

but the Holy Spirit can speak to you in a way I cannot.

You want that true joy, that deep-down joy?

Go to confession. 

John would have said, get baptized.

And if you’ve never been baptized, 

then talk to me about becoming a Christian. 

But most of us are already baptized, 

so, for us, it’s renewing that new birth.

That’s what confession is.

Knowing you are at peace with God, at peace with others?

That is joy!

And don’t wait till the last minute. 

It’s the same every year, right in the last few days, 

it’s like check-out at Wal-Mart!

It’s OK, But I’m saying, if you come THIS week,

you can get a jump on last-minute rush. 

Don’t worry that you can’t remember how. I’ll help you!

You know what my best Christmas gift is?

Someone comes to confession, it’s been a long time,

he or she is really burdened, overwhelmed, 

and then gets to be quit of it all! In a few minutes! 

Every priest will tell you; we can sense that huge weight sliding off!

I’m not saying, come to confession for me.

I’m saying, you’re waiting in line, sweating, all churned up,

and you’re wondering, what will the priest think? 

I’m thinking, this is a really good day! God just made my week!

That’s joy for me; that’s joy for you!

1 comment:

rcg said...

I like John. I hope to see him some day.