The Preaching of St. John the Baptist, Pieter Bruegel the Elder 1566, Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, Hungary.
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Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear……… Matthew 11:4-5.
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The overriding figure of the season of Advent is unquestionably that of St. John the Baptist. He heralded the coming of the Lord, was indeed his cousin, and although a celebrated figure himself, as Scripture tells us of crowds going out into the wilderness to hear what he had to say and to take part in his baptism in the River Jordan, he acknowledged that he was unworthy even to untie the shoe of the One who was about to reveal himself to them. The Hebrews of that time and place were extremely receptive of any prophet who claimed that the Messiah was about to appear in their midst. That was exactly what John was telling them; indeed, it was John’s vocation, mission, from God. And today’s gospel contains the message Jesus sent to him, echoing the prophecies of old, when the lame will walk, the blind see and the deaf hear (see Isaiah 35:5). When John was claimed by God eight days after his birth according to Jewish tradition, at his circumcision, his father Zechariah said, “As for you, little child, you shall be called the prophet of God most high; you shall go ahead of the Lord to prepare his ways before him, to make known to his people their salvation through forgiveness of all their sins…” (Luke 1:76-77). Now I believe that John’s vocation, inspired by God and spoken through the mouth of the Baptist’s father, applies to each and every Christian man and woman. In our lives, in our thoughts, in our actions and words, we should echo John’s life and be heralds of the coming of Christ. And even more, be Christ to and in the world as we are the baptized children of God! We take the Lord into us at every Mass, and from that God has every right to expect us to reflect Christ among our friends, acquaintances and in our world. In other words, to love every one of them.
And so Gaudete Sunday, a title which comes from today’s entrance antiphon for Mass, Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice (“Gaudete in Domino semper” from the old Latin Mass), brings us more than half way to Christmas Day and a moment to reflect on our journey. The theme of rejoicing in anticipation of the Lord’s arrival is even seen in the (optional) rose color of today’s Mass vestments worn by the priest and deacon, and in the rose candle of the Advent wreath, a tradition given to us by our Lutheran brothers and sisters. So not much longer to wait, and a little more time to prepare our souls for The Day. We might reflect on healing possible wounds in our families, repairing breaches in friendships, supporting our chosen worthy causes, especially at Christmas time; there are many actions we can take in an effort to make our world more ready for the arrival of the Christ Child, There is still time to do it…
The “Rose-Pink” Joy Candle at Faith Lutheran Church.
Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.
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