Pastor's Pen, the 3rd Sunday of Advent

I remember a philosophy professor of mine presenting us with a question.  He asked "which would you prefer at your wedding, to have a musician play the songs you’ve chosen or the songs that the musician has chosen?" We, of course, all answered the songs we’ve chosen.  He smiled, and said “you’re all wrong.”  He explained that the musician would play much more beautifully the music he or she was passionate about.  In this week’s Gospel, Jesus is asking people what they went to see when they went to see John the Baptist.  Was it a prophet, one in soft robes, or a reed shaken by the wind?  The image of a reed shaken by the wind implies a sense of uncertainty, an uncertainty about the passion in our hearts.  In Toronto, instead of a reed, we may say a small tree, blowing in the wind, or out east, a ship without a keel, tossed about by the waves.  Jesus says that John is his messenger, preparing the way for his coming.  John was not eloquent; he simply yelled ‘repent.’  John was not handsome; he was unkempt and wore a loin cloth.  John was not appropriate; he ate locusts and wild honey.  What John had, however, was a passion for God. John didn’t care what he sounded like, looked like, or the impressions he gave because his whole life had been overcome by a passionate love.  And no person or thing could close his mouth to the proclamation that he knew was true.  And just as John was the Lord’s messenger, so too are we the Lord’s witnesses.

When we falter from our call as witnesses, we become like that reed shaken by the wind.  We lose our centre, we lose our meaning, we lose our lives —we lose everything.  The prophet Isaiah speaks of this moment using the images of “weak hands,” “feeble knees,” and a “fearful heart.”  St. James describes it as a moment when we “grumble against one another.”  While none of us are attracted to such faltering, we must be honest and admit that sometimes we fall into it.  The goodness and the love of God that we know is shared with us at all times, the good times and the bad times, is not a sort of free pass.  It is, rather, a transformative power.  If I know I am loved with my weakness, through my sinfulness, and I know this in my heart, than this love can begin to overcome my whole life.  I grumble and judge less because evil has no place in God’s kingdom.  My weak hands, feeble knees and fearful heart are overcome by God’s passionate love, a love that comes to save.

As witnesses that Jesus Christ is Lord, let us not be like a reed shaken by the wind, or a boat tossed by the ravaging waves.  But let us be the impassioned people that God dreams us to be.  Let us be like the Baptist.  Let our whole lives be overcome by the passionate love of God.  Let us sing the songs that we want, speak the words that we desire to say and enact the Kingdom that we know is real.

“And Jesus answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see:  the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.’”

God Bless and Take Care!
Fr. John

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