"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

2nd SUNDAY OF ADVENT (A) Dec 8th, 2019

Isaiah 11: 1-10 Psalm 72 Romans 15: 4-9 Matthew 3: 1-12

by Jude Siciliano, OP

Dear Preachers:

AN END OF THE YEAR APPEAL

In our liturgical celebrations and daily prayer we frequently pray for vocations.

I live in a novitiate community of the Southern Dominican Province, USA.

I can say that I have seen visible evidence that our prayers have been heard, for we have two vibrant novices spending their first year in the Order with us.

Please join us in praying for them as they discern their vocations.

"First Impressions" is a free weekly preaching ministry. If you can help support this ministry, as well as help with the training of our novices, we would appreciate it. Please pray for us, as we do for you, our benefactors, each day.

Send tax deductible checks to:

Dominican Fathers of Irving

3150 Vince Hagan Dr.

Irving, Texas 75062-4736

 

Or: For an online donation go to:

https://www.preacherexchange.com/donations.htm

Thank you.



If John the Baptist were alive in our day he would be a star! He would be covered by all forms of communication and social media. You could get clips of his preaching on "You Tube." He was the closest thing the first century had to a rock star. He dressed the part: camel’s hair, not the expensive, but the rough kind, and around his waist, a leather belt. He ate exotic foods, locusts and wild honey. He couldn’t help getting people’s attention, he was up front and in their face: kicking up the waters of the Jordan; pointing his fingers in the faces of the insincere; shaking up the comfortable, calling them names, "You brood of vipers!" No doubt about it, John the Baptist was an attention-getter. But he didn’t act the way he did because he wanted fame and money. He had something big to say, "Repent…." "Straighten things up! Have courage, help is on its way."

Recently I started a long drive, leaving the house at 5am. For two hours I drove in the dark. After four hours on the road I realized I had not been fully alert. I had been traveling the last couple of miles on a mental cruise control, not dozing off, but almost in a hypnotic state. Luckily traffic was thin and I did not have to make any fast decisions. I did the sensible thing, pulled over and took a nap. You can’t be traveling on a highway 65 mph and not be fully awake.

Life gets that way, doesn’t it? It feels like we are moving along at 65 mph, sometimes on cruise control. Maybe we haven’t crashed, but is that any way to go through life? What are we missing along the way? Whom are we missing along the way? Have we been missing those who count; losing a sense of priorities; missing the best and most important parts of our lives? Where is our attention and where is our focus?

At this time of the year, a lot of us seem to be on automatic drive, putting our heads down, plowing through the season. What we need is a wake up call. Sometimes it can be strident and in our face, just as John the Baptist was to his generation. Have we been attentive to the wake up calls we have been getting and ignoring? Perhaps it’s a spouse who, in a gentle way, says something important to us that stops us in our tracks. Or, maybe the call comes in a not-so-gentle way: a friend confronts us because we have broken a promise, or taken them for granted. A child says to us, "How come you never play with me anymore?" Maybe the wake up comes when we are advised by a doctor to slow down, quit a bad habit and take better care of ourselves.

The media can be a clarion call, our John the Baptist that snaps us awake. On the evening news, or the Internet we see images of desperate people in refugee camps; the homeless living under overpasses; families separated at our border; brutal conditions in our prisons; our environment being destroyed by chemical waste, etc. God speaks to us like that, sometimes in a harsh John-the-Baptist tone and at other times in gentler ways. The effect can be the same, if we listen to the voice and realize the truth it is speaking to us: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

About what must we repent? Advent is a blessed season, for it can bring light to the darker areas of our lives, the parts that we tend to ignore, or avoid reflecting on. It can wake us to certain compulsions we have: that we have lived superficial lives; searched for happiness in all the wrong places; thought what make us happy lies in the newest, fastest, latest and cleverest device. Isn’t that what the commercials are saying will bring us happiness and fulfillment? A recent survey said that the parents who spend less time with their children buy them more gifts. Just one more sign that our society desires more and more, but it seems to offer less and less of what really counts. John the Baptist is shining a light on our lives, telling us that we may be investing a lot of our energies in the wrong places. Think about that: is it true?

The gift of Advent may be to stir us to admit, with sorrow, that our quest for happiness has disappointed us. Others have identified what will make us happy and we have found it wanting. Why else do we come here to worship week after week? It is not just because we are keeping a religious rule, is it? It’s not just because we are concerned about the next life and want to guarantee our place there, is it? John the Baptist proclaims that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Advent reminds us that the kingdom of heaven is about this life, as we hope and search for meaning, sanity and balance in a world that is often off-balance.

As hard as John the Baptist sounded, he drew a crowd. People came because they needed help and a voice of clarity and sanity – just as we do. Along with the crowds who heard John preach, we also hear good news. The prophet tells us that someone is coming bearing the Holy Spirit and fire to warm our spirits chilled by boredom, routine which have become bloated with excess, habit and indifference. We need a renewed spirit but we cannot manufacture one on our own.

The Spirit is the Advent gift we long for and which cannot be purchased by the rich and powerful. Nor can the Spirit be cornered and monopolized by any special religious elite; it is a free offer by God. It turns out that the voice behind John’s voice is God’s and it is a loving and concerned voice. God definitely intends something special this Advent for each of us and also for our worshiping community that longs for healing and renewal.

Pharisees and Sadducees came to John’s baptism and the words he had for them were harsh, "You brood of vipers." But can we hear the compassion in his voice calling them and us to put things right in our lives? Someone said recently, "I’m so busy these days and, on top of it all, I have to go to three school Christmas concerts my children will be in!" She also said, "I need a break." It’s not a very liturgical description, but Advent is just that, "a break from the routine."

How will we provide that for ourselves? Can we put aside a little time for quiet and reflection? It will take creativity, but we can do that! There is too much clutter in our lives and John promises that Jesus’ coming with his Spirit can do what we can’t, "Clear the threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn...." That is the promise we hear this Advent: the Spirit is coming to help us clear space for God and gather "the wheat," that will give us the life God wants us to have.

Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120819.cfm