What Would the Baptist Say Today?

Deacon RayReflections

A Meditation for the 2nd Sunday of Advent

“Brothers and Sisters,” Paul writes. “Whatever was written previously was written for our instruction, that by endurance and by the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

John’s tone with the Pharisees and Sadducees, the religious people of his day, was certainly direct. When we think of hell fire and brimstone preacher, John the Baptist is right up there at the top of the pack. So how can we hear John’s message as encouraging and hopeful?

What would John the Baptist’s tone be if he were speaking to us today? What would his message be to our world, to our country, to our parish and to ourselves?

I encourage and invite you to reflect on these questions in a very personal way during the coming week.

So . . . What would John’s message sound like today? Would it be a message of warning? Of encouragement? Of praise? Of chastisement?

What would John say to our world? . . . a world divided by: great wealth and great poverty, by religious sectarianism, mistrust and hatred, a very divisive presidential campaign.

What would John say to a world divided by war and terror, fractured by natural and man-made disasters, a world where slavery still exists in many forms, some blatant, some subtle?

What would John say to our Country? Would he remind us of our blessings? That, we are a land of great bounty, natural resources and beauty? Would he praise us for our generosity and our willingness to put our lives on the line to protect the rights and freedom of others, and to open our wallets whenever and wherever natural disasters strike?

Would he chastise us for letting ourselves grow fat with excess? Would he warn us that we have let fear dominate our lives and national politics and corrupt our sense of fairness and justice?

Would he question us as to why the land that has prided itself at being a place of welcome to “the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free” would be building a fence to keep people out, and considering the deportation of 12 million people who illegally have found their way through our “Golden door”?

Again the words of Paul . . . words written for our “Instruction and encouragement” . . .

“Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God.”

What would John say to our Country about the way we value human life?

Would he convict us of not protecting infants in the womb, of allowing children to live in poverty, of abusing their innocence, and not guaranteeing their safety?

What might he suggest to us about the care we provide to the poor elderly? To the mentally ill?

What would John have to say about the racial, ethnic and gender orientation hatred still very much in evidence in our land, or for that matter, the gender divides still present in our Church?

Would he direct us to the Words of Isaiah in today’s 1st reading?

“Not by appearance shall he judge,
nor by hearsay shall he decide,
but he shall judge the poor with justice,
and decide aright for the land’s afflicted.”

What would John (who himself was beheaded) have to say to us about the death penalty?

Certainly John would praise us for being a people of great religious devotion and practice . . . but would that be enough to assure that we will not be left of the “threshing floor” when Christ wields his winnowing fan.

What would John’s tone be toward our Community and its Churches? Would he praise us for the way we preserve the dignity of those who look to our County for public assistance?

What would he say to our Parish? Would he mention that when we provide loving care to our homebound sick and those in our hospital and nursing homes – we care for the broken and suffering Christ? Would he remind us that when we open our doors and facilities to AA Groups we open our doors to Christ? Would he encourage us to more faithfully pray and work together to spread the Good News of God’s love?

In reflection, I think his words would be words of both encouragement and concern.

I believe he would say . . . You are people of great faith and generous spirit. You love your parish and have kept faithful to it through times of turmoil and change. You have welcomed newcomers, visited the sick, comforted the grieving, been generous to your own young people. You are a good people, and God has blessed you abundantly as a result of your goodness and faith.

But, would he not also note that, in some hearts, the seeds of bitterness remain.

What would John say to our families? What guidance would he offer to those whose relationships have become strained? I believe that John’s message would be very personal – and his tone will be one of encouragement. “Family life can be difficult,” he would say. “Relationships that begin with passion can become cold. You need to make family and relationships a priority. Wives – Love your husbands. Husbands – Cherish your wives. Love is a decision, not an emotion. Decide to love.

Parents – Teach your children, through unconditional love, patience and encouragement. Instill within them – from the very beginning – the values that Christ taught us. Teach them to love God and love others. It is never too late to begin again. Tell your children that you love them. You are their safety net in a very dangerous world. Keep the flame of faith shining brightly in your life. And, when they leave your care, know that God will go with them.

Children. Parenting is difficult. Help you parents do a good job, by: loving them unconditionally, by praying for them, and as you seek you own unique identity, know that letting go will be difficult for them. So, treat them with the respect, care and love that you yourself desire. God is with you. Do not be afraid.”

Finally, John’s message to those who are separated by distance or death from family or loved ones. Let this parish be your family. Make this parish your home away from home. See this parish as a place where your time, and talent and treasure will be valued and used in ministry. Worship with us, weekly for sure, daily if possible. Get to know us, and allow us to get to know you.

And so today again, on this 2nd Sunday of Advent, we are challenged to “Reform our Lives and believe the Good News.” And, as we ponder this challenge, we hear again the words of Paul:

“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another, in keeping with Christ Jesus, that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”