St Francis Q&A

Sunday, December 07, 2008

2nd Sunday of Advent - homily

Some of you may remember Fr. Tom Wells who was here at St Andrew’s for a couple of years in the 80s. He was transferred from here to my home parish, Our Lady of Lourdes in Bethesda. One of the priests he lived with was then-Father Gonzalez, now Bishop Gonzalez of Washington. The two of them got along so well – both fun guys! They had fun with each other and enjoyed each other’s company.

One time, they were at a parish party talking with a parishioner. The parishioner said to Fr Wells, “Father Wells, you preach like John the Baptist!” Fr. Wells turned to Fr Gonzalez and said with a smile, “hmmmm…John the Baptist!” He began to show some signs of boasting and gloating. Fr Gonzalez then asked the parishioner, “what about me?”, as Fr Wells laughed. The woman said, “oh, Fr Gonzalez, you preach like Jesus!” (Fr Wells went silent).

We hear about John the Baptist in today’s Gospel. We get an image that is hard for me to figure out. We hear about a man who dressed differently (he wore clothing with camel’s hair), had a different kind of diet (wild honey and grasshoppers), and spoke differently (“prepare the way of the Lord…make straight his paths). He pretty much got right in people’s faces and told them to change their lives. So, here is a different kind of guy. And yet, huge crowds from Judea and Jerusalem came to hear him. What is the attraction to John the Baptist?

People were attracted to John the Baptist for a number of reasons; I’d like to offer a few. First, he spoke the truth. We all want to hear and know the truth – in specific situations and in general. The truth is very attractive to us. Also, he challenged people. Challenging someone is a sign of love and respect. People like to be challenged; we see this especially with our youth. People knew that John the Baptist loved and respected them when they heard his challenges to change their lives. Now, on a practical level, he gave them something – baptism. We Catholics are like this too – we like to get stuff. John gave them something – the cleansing waters of baptism.

The biggest reason why John the Baptist was attractive to people is because of hope. He was a source of hope for them. Pope Benedict XVI has said that Advent is a season of hope. Hope points to something else, something greater than itself. John the Baptist pointed to something else – someone else – his whole life. He pointed to Christ. “Someone is coming after me who is greater than me”. He pointed to something else in a positive way; that was very attractive to people. I think this is the reason we listen to any prophet – they point us to something else. And that something is Christ.

When we come to the person of Christ, we come to hope itself. He is hope’s end; and yet, he points to something else. In other words, he is the kingdom of God on Earth and points to the Kingdom of God in Heaven.

We see this with the Eucharist. It is the Kingdom of God on Earth and points to the Kingdom of God in Heaven. This is true with all of the sacraments – they contain Grace and signify the Grace they contain. They give us hope and point to that hope which is Christ.

May this Eucharist fill us with hope. May it help us to be like John the Baptist and all of the prophets: sources of hope. May our lives point to something else – Jesus Christ.


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