All three readings today focus on the absolute necessity of our getting ready for Christ’s coming by true repentance, by reparation and the renewal of our lives. It’s one of those times in the Church year that we are reminded forcefully that this is a time for both introspection and action.
The Gospel tells us through John the Baptist how we should prepare to receive Jesus coming home into our lives during the Advent season by repentance and the renewal of life. Now John preached that the appropriate behavior for those preparing “the way of the Lord” was to be baptized “as they confessed their sins.” He wanted the Jews to prepare their lives for the Messiah by filling in the valleys of prejudice, leveling the mountains of pride and straightening out their crooked paths of injustice. John recommended a baptism of repentance in the river Jordan to the Jews who were familiar with ritual and symbolic washings. The most amazing thing about John’s baptism was that, as a Jew, he was asking fellow-Jews to submit to the baptism of repentance which only a Gentile was obliged to undergo.
St. John the Baptist, however, was much more than an unusual character doing unusual things. By word and deed, he stood out from the crowd and made a huge impact. His way of life and the conviction of his preaching made people sit up and pay attention. They had no choice but to listen to him, regardless of whether they took his message to heart or not.
We, as believers in Jesus Christ, are called to do exactly the same. Our world is also fearful. We live in an era that is marred by uncertainty and doubt. We live in a time of wars and amid tales of violence and brutality that are more than anything that modern times have seen. As the great hymn says, we seem to be “by a thousand snares surrounded.” The world of the first century and the world of the 21st don’t seem too far apart. We seem to be looking for what St. Peter says in the second reading, “the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar, and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth, and everything done on it, will be found out.” That’s pretty sobering stuff.
In the gloom of this seemingly imminent doom, the call of the Christian is to proclaim a new heaven and a new earth, by living “holy and saintly lives.” The world around us may not accept what we proclaim. The world around us may reject what we call holy. The world around us may be content to live in great darkness, but those of us who have been given the gift of faith must bravely and confidently cry out, “prepare the way of the Lord.” That’s a tall order especially if you are living the good life in a place like Boquete. It’s peace, it’s beauty, it’s tranquility and the civility of its people lull us into a false of security.
But if we remain conscious of the world around us and how quickly it can cause contagion around us then how do we then prepare ourselves? Well part of it is to follow the examples of the holy and devoted servants of God, whom we have already just heard. We have to stand up for our faith and truly practice it in our own lives. And then, we should not be afraid to point out the truth of Christ to others. After all, through our baptism, we have been called to be the witnesses of the Lord in this world, and as witnesses, it is only fitting that all of us do our part to evangelize the Good News, through our actions. We should live our daily lives – every day — so that all who see us may know the Lord through us and come to believe in Him. But that is hard for us as Catholics. We are not accustomed to evangelizing about our faith. In fact, the very thought of evangelization makes us squirm. Good works are Ok but Good words, Good Lord.
Well, I am going to take you down a path today that I took those who attended our community’s retreat on Friday. I am going to take you to a place where loving and living the Lord is going to be a lot more familiar,
On Friday we talked about the love that God has for us, then we moved to prayer as the way we communicate with God and we explored the real meaning of The Lord’s Prayer then we ended on something that is so personal and so intimate and so uniquely ours. And when I say that, I mean that this “something” is different in each of us but it is common in its effect.
This something is so unique because of its strength and what it can mean for our life.
This “something” is the gift of the Holy Eucharist.
What the Holy Eucharist is about is having Jesus Christ within us. Physically within us. Have you ever thought about the fact that each of us becomes a tabernacle when we leave Church ? We carry the true Christ in our bodies. It should be revered as much as it is when it is reposed within the tabernacle on the altar.
Think about that. Each time we come to Mass, and receive the Eucharist we walk out of here a living temple.
Would any one of us blaspheme in Church? Would any of us gossip in Church? Would any of us hurt another in Church? Of course not!
But you know where I am going next. We do that, don’t we? We leave Church with Christ within us and we act as if it nothing happened. I sometimes wonder if we just don’t take this gift as a matter of fact. Perhaps we have come to jaded, too blasé about what it is.
What The Eucharist is, IS the power to transform. It is a mingling of His Body and Blood with us. There is nothing more intimate in human nature. In that intimacy, each of us becomes one with God. Think about it. One with God. What does that mean in terms of all the hardships and joys of life? What does that mean in terms of how we face life? What does that mean when adversity befalls us? What does that mean when we feel lonely? What does that mean when we feel that there is no way out? What does it tell us about putting behind us whatever we feel guilty about or whatever wrongs we have done the past and living in this Christ filled moment? No matter where we have been, no matter what we have done, no matter what has been done to us or to those we loved, the moment we receive Christ, our inner nature changes.
The reality of the truth of receiving Holy Eucharist is so powerful that words alone are inadequate to describe it. We know that God is always around us. But when we receive Holy Eucharist, there is God WITHIN US With God, there is nothing that is impossible. Yes, it is true that God sometimes does not answer our prayers the way we want, Sometimes tragedy hits us and we wonder where is that loving God?
But no matter the joy, the sadness, the happenings of life, we have the opportunity to call on the greatest strength the world knows – The Presence of God. Why do we Catholics forget this? Why do we sometimes let our faith grow fallow? If our children fall away from the Church, why aren’t we reminding them of the gift of the Eucharist? If our fellow Catholics who have fallen away talk to us about not needing the Church to worship God, do we talk about Church as the place where they can receive the greatest gift that has ever been given? Do we talk to them about the gift of having God within in? Yes, it IS our obligation to present this to others. It is, the Sum and the Substance of our faith. It is such a gift that we should want to share it.
With that gift, it should be a simple exercise to prepare for the coming of the Christ Child at Christmas. He is already one with us. All we need to do to prepare during the Advent season is first to recognize His presence in us through the Holy Eucharist , secondly to be sure that our personal tabernacles are fee of the clutter and dirt that human existence brings and then boldly step out to help, to heal, to honor Him by inviting others to worship with us on Sundays, to remind ourselves that as we do not do for the least of our brothers, we do not do for Him.
Here you are. Here you are today. Here is your chance to make the presence of God within you even more meaningful and even more pronounced. He waits for you to answer that call. I pray that you do.