Wednesday, December 14, 2016

There is No Other

I am the LORD, there is no other; I form the light and create the darkness, I make well-being and create woe; I, the LORD, do all these things. Let justice descend, O heavens, like dew from above, like gentle rain let the skies drop it down. Let the earth open and salvation bud forth; let justice also spring up! I, the LORD, have created this. Isaiah 45:

And Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”  Luke 7:22-23

Saint John of the Cross, in the dark night of your soul and your worst moments, when you were alone and persecuted, you found God. Help us to have faith the size of a mustard seed to wait through this Advent season to see that God is there especially in the times when God seems absent and far away. Amen.

Today is the last day that Liturgical vestments are white until Christ comes into the world.  As our readings take a sharp turn to recount the Nativity story from tomorrow through Christmas Eve, we have a chance to contemplate the end of this mystery. 

In Advent, we await the same revelation that John the Baptist was waiting for in ancient Palestine.  To drive that point home, Jesus takes the Nazareth Manifesto to another level in today’s Good News.  Think back to Luke 4:18-19.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”

After delivering this, Jesus rolls up the Torah and puts it away while remarking: “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

The shock of the people in the temple is surpassed today as Jesus has provided the physical evidence that goes beyond the people only hearing the scripture. 

In John’s darkest hour, facing imprisonment for speaking truth to the power of Herod, the disciples John sent to find out if Jesus is the One go back with quite a story.  The words of the Hebrew Bible spring off the scroll and into reality.  These disciples are now eye-witnesses to history for eternity.  The blind regain their sight.  The lame walk.  The lepers are cleansed.  The deaf hear.  The dead are raised.  The poor have the good news proclaimed to them. 

John’s question (“Are you the one who is to come?”) is a reference to the return of the fiery prophet of reform, Elijah, “before the day of the Lord comes, the great and terrible day” (Mal 3:23).  However, Jesus is not the return of the fiery prophet.  This baby we await will grow up to bring the blessings spoken of in Is 61:1 to those who are oppressed and neglected by society.   

In the darkness of John’s ministry, he found Emmanuel – God With Us – in the form of his blessed cousin.  Justice descended from the heavens and springs up right there on the dusty paths of Nazareth.  Today, that is fulfilled not only in our hearing it but also in seeing it.  There Is No Other.

St. John of the Cross – like John the Baptist – in his life and writings, has a crucial word for us today. We live our lives in comfortable heated suburbs with indoor plumbing and central heating and air conditioning.  Compared to most of the world, even if we consider ourselves middle class, we are richer and more comfortable than two billion people around the world who live in poverty.  

In this season of gift giving and party throwing, we are inundated with images that are the opposite of the Christian ideal.  We are called by Madison Avenue and Wal-Mart and Target and Lexus to have a December to remember.  You will not see or hear words like self-denial, mortification, purification, asceticism, or discipline on any TV ads. We run from the cross to our Netflix, SUVs, and 14-hour a day jobs.  John’s message—like the gospel—is loud and clear: Don’t—if you really want to live!

Watch for the ways Jesus is made manifest in the world.  We won’t find it in the missiles launched at the innocent poor of Aleppo.  We will only find it in the Missals opened in the pews of our Mass and in the way we bring that message into the world for others to see. Let us observe the Advent season until it reveals its gift and allows us to see the son.

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