Sunday 8 December 2019
A few years ago I met a young relative of mine and she was full of joy. ‘I have met the man of my dreams’, she said. She had always dreamed and hoped that one day this person would come into her life. But obviously she had no guarantee. Yet she was surprised and full of delight when it did happen.
In the first reading today Isaiah the prophet tells us about the dream that he has and that would be fulfilled in the future. It would be about Someone whom we now know to be Jesus our Messiah.
Not only that but since Adam and Eve had disobeyed God, this resulted in the separation, fear and alienation within the human family. Things would be different when the One, whom we know now as Jesus, the Messiah would come, provided of course, we lived as he asked us to. People would live in peace and the earth would truly be a glorious place in which to be. No pollution, no emission of industrial gases, no destroying of forests, no dumping of nuclear waste or oil on the earth or into the seas etc.
Jesus invites us to participate in this work. He won’t wave a magic wand to make it happen without our cooperation. He won’t treat us as puppets on a string but calls us to be responsible human beings.
John the Baptist is the central figure in today’s gospel. He too has a dream. Again, the dream will not be fulfilled without the cooperation of the people. He calls them to be baptised, to acknowledge their sins and repent. The word ‘repent’ is best understood as a new way of looking at life. Ultimately it means looking at life and people through the eyes of Jesus. Jesus, as we know also began his ministry with practically the same words as his cousin, John the Baptist. “The kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent and believe the Good News” (Mark 1.14-15).
Advent then is the season of preparation for the coming of Christ into our hearts in a new way. We all know that accidents happen but celebrations take time. To have an enjoyable birthday or wedding celebration we have to prepare and this takes time, energy and hard work. Last year some of our priests were 50 years ordained. The celebration was great but I saw since I was there, all the hard work that went into preparing the celebration. It was no accident that it was a very enjoyable and happy occasion.
Advent can prevent an annual sadness. It is a time to ‘get real’ as students say these times. Getting real means not pretending that Christmas is for children only. The birth of Jesus is so real that we can find it hard to face. We might prefer to let the kids cheer us up or replace with gifts the real Gift, Jesus the Saviour. Surely the birth and the second coming of Jesus is something to be well prepared for.
So God did not come into our world without plenty of prior notice. He used the prophets especially to prepare us well in advance. Nearer the time John the Baptist announced the coming of Jesus, as in today’s gospel. John also reminds us that deeds not mere words are what are required. He says that if we are repentant we must produce appropriate fruit. That the axe will be laid to the roots of the trees so that any tree which fails to produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. These are challenging words indeed because for John it is a very serious issue and not to be taken lightly. In the last few days one of the famous pop group the Beatles died. His name was George Harrison. He did not claim to be a Christian but was a Hindu. He said “Everything else can wait but the search for God cannot be delayed. And love one another”. Not a bad summary of the Christian message!
Christmas is no accident on the part of God who knew quite well what he was doing in sending us Jesus. But Jesus cannot come into our hearts if we don’t welcome him. We won’t be able to do this if we our hearts are full up of all that does not lead to true happiness. That is why John’s call in today’s gospel to repent is so important. It implies a change of attitude since without conversion it is impossible to welcome Christ. John reminds us that the change he is asking of us is not something formal; something done by complying with external rituals. John demands as we said already that ‘we bear fruit worthy of repentance’. Spelling this out means welcoming, forgiving and sharing with our neighbours in whatever way possible. There is not middle path, there is either wheat or chaff, acceptance or rejection of Christ’s attitudes and behaviour. Which will we choose?
We all have dreams for ourselves and for those we love. Martin Luther King had a dream that Whites and Blacks in America could live in peace and harmony. So too had Nelson Mandela for South Africa, Mother Teresa for the poor and dying, Blessed Pope John XXIII for the Church, Gandhi for India etc. But it cost each a great amount of suffering and effort. Certainly for Jesus it was the same.
What of us? Will we allow God’s dream for us and our world to be realised by our efforts, however small they may be?
“Maranatha. Come Lord Jesus. Help us with your Holy Spirit to make your dream come true. Amen”.
Fr.Jim Kirstein, SMA