St. John the Baptist Preaching, Preti c.1665, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, USA.
A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” Luke 3:4.
Words highlighted in red are links to supporting materials.
If you are a church-going Christian, you might well feel like a voice crying in the wilderness these days. The research and management consulting company Gallup has reported on church membership for many years, and has noted that church/synagogue/mosque membership has fallen significantly in the new century from 71% to 47% in 2020. Their report notes that the decline in Catholic membership has been greater than Protestant decline, 76% to 58% compared to 73% – 64%. That is not too surprising seeing the scandalous and shocking revelations within the Catholic community over the last 30-odd years. But is does seem to call those of us remaining in the church, and determined to eliminate the evil which seems to have been rampant up to now, to stand up and proclaim our belief in the Lord and all he stands for. In other words, to be John the Baptist today! The first reading today, from Baruch, hints at the Jewish people exiled in Babylon “Led away on foot by their enemies they left you”, “you” in our case today being the true church of Christ. We remaining church-goers might well be them today, left in the ruins inflicted by evil priests who have wounded the church so significantly. So our voices must be raised to restate the message of Christ, so utterly the opposite of what has happened in our community. So it is up to us to be “A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths”, except it is us who have to make straight those paths turned crooked by the devil’s disciples. And what better season to do this than Advent! The goal is nicely stated in today’s second reading, that our love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that we may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness….
It is part of our vocation as Christians to live a life which stands as a model for those around, to behave in ways which are friendly and attractive, to be as generous as possible with our resources, our skills and our time. Remember we are here for our neighbors as well as for God and for ourselves. That is the way to attract Catholics who have given up on the Church back into its life, and indeed for others to become intrigued about the power which drives us to do the right thing. Advent means approach or coming, in our case, the arrival of the Lord of Life. Proper recognition of that is beyond buying presents and sending Christmas cards. It is also a time to prepare inwardly for Jesus’ arrival. Just as if a relative is about to arrive for the first time in ages (quite possible in these quarantine days) we would clean the house from top to toe, the same is called for spiritually with the traditional arrival of the Lord on the 25th. And that might well call us to be John the Baptist, who prepared the way of the Lord for others.
His Name is John, Bonnell 2020.
Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.
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