A Cycle * 2nd Sunday of Advent 19
Mt. 3: 1-12
I often wondered how anyone could be attracted to John the Baptist. After all he had to be a frightening figure in his camel hair clothes, uncut hair and beard, and his strange diet habits. But beyond that who is attracted to someone whose message is you are a sinner and must change. What happened to the old sales technique of not offending the one you are trying to sell something? John certainly did not mince his words or compromise his calling. You brood of vipers, produce good fruit as a sign of your repentance.
The university campus organization FOCUS. (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) was founded to share the joy of the gospel with university students equipping and inspiring them for a lifetime of Christ centered evangeliszation. It has an amazing record of spreading the gospel and bringing young men and women to a faith that is fueled by a life of prayer, reception of the sacraments and reading scripture. Unlike John’s approach of pointing out the wrath to come they share God’s love and their lives with those they are attempting to commit to a life of following Jesus as a disciple.
John the Baptist we know was chosen for his role in salvation history. The son of Zachariah and Elizabeth John was filled with the Spirit at conception. He was gifted with the ability to speak powerfully and draw “all from Jerusalem, Judea, and the region around Judea to hear his words and respond by repenting. Today the church needs more John the Baptist’s because the sad fact is less, and less people feel the need to be in an organized religion. In fact, the data presented by the Siena Institute in the book “Intentional Discipleship” reveals less than 10% of young people go to church.
The only way to reverse that is not to depend on the church to reach out to them but we must recognize the mission given to each one of us is to make the gospel message known. The scriptures tell us we are called to be disciples, not to be faithful church members. It is easy to be a faithful church member because all that is required of us is to be faithful in attending, faithful in giving. We have a faithful congregation by that measure, but have we embraced our mission to spread the good news of Christ’s sacrifice.
The plan of God is that each one of us has been given a “gift” for the up building of the kingdom of God on earth. Some of those gifts are natural talents such as music, speaking, teaching and yes even a ministry of prayer for the community. Yet others have been given hearts for reaching out to the home bound, the lost and lonely by sharing their lives and their faith with them.
John the Baptist understood the Old Testament scriptures and how the prophets were paving the way just as he was for the One who was to come. We have been gifted to pave the way to proclaim the good news of the One who came to bring us salvation and life. I know that scares the bejeebies out of us. It scared me when I was first invited to stand on a street corner and tell people about Jesus.
Why should I do that for like you I had been taught my faith is personal and private. In one sense that is absolute because without my private time with God my faith is all works without the dependence on God. On the other hand, the church tells us we by our baptism have been empowered to evangelize. Unfortunately, it seems we have been empowered to turn inward instead of outward.
What was it that John the Baptist touched in those who responded to his message about the one who was to come and baptize them in spirit and fire? I happen to believer it was that sense that there is more to our relationship with Good than we have experienced. We do instinctively know there is something missing, but we do not know if it exists or if we are worthy of it when it comes. Yet, we want it but when offered to us we hesitate because it is a journey into the unknown.
What we have worked so hard at attaining in our faith journey is predictability. Christ invited us to follow Him and like Thomas we say, “but we do not know where you are going.” I do not know if you ever thought of this but when Jesus responded to Thomas statement, Jesus did not tell Thomas where He was going. No, instead, Jesus said, ‘where I am going you know the way, I am the way the truth and the life.” We know that is true so why are we not doing all we can to discover Christ?
Those involved in FOCUS spend their days encountering Christ in their personal daily prayer speaking to God from their hearts, and sharing the gospel with others. They read the scriptures because they reveal God’s plan, God’s love and they discover how we are totally dependent on the Spirit to guide our thoughts, our actions, reveal our giftedness and lead us to those who need the gospel most.
How have you spent your first week of Advent? Have we done one thing to prepare ourselves to respond to Christ when He calls us to open our hearts to receive Him? Those young men and women of FOCUS understand our faith is not private, it is to be shared with those who need to hear the unvarnished words “unless you bear good fruit” you are not doing God’s will.
Unlike John they do not brow beat anyone. They do not condemn, nor do they shun the sinners. They are trained to befriend them before they evangelize them. Our strongest tool to evangelize is not how faithful we are as members of our faith community. It is how visible is our belief in God’s promises to forgive and forget our sins, How visible is our belief that because of Jesus’s death and resurrection we have been freed from the guilt of our sins and stand before God as sons and daughters sharing life in the Kingdom of God.
Are we living a life that gives those who doubt hope or reinforces their belief that God does not care? John the Baptist never doubted did he. Well there was the one time when he sent his disciples to Jesus and asked, “are you the one who was to come.” Jesus answered by saying tell John what you see. There is the key to effective evangelization, we must live in a way that we see and feel the power of God.