God's Answer for Our Hearts

12-08-2019Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

To some practical extent, the future is now. We need to realize that our present actions and attitudes create our future. We cannot know the future as such, but we need to think about it. Life will happen whether we think about it or not, but knowing what matters for the future is most important. Our central character this weekend in the Gospel is John the Baptist who is most willing to shine a light on the future. He announces a message of repentance to prepare for the future. Indeed people come in hordes to hear him and respond. They step forward and receive a baptism of repentance. Note, however, in this Gospel passage that John’s blunt judgment of the Pharisees and Sadducees who are in this mass of humanity brings us up a little short. Matthew, the Gospel writer, was always hard on the religious leaders of Israel. His Gospel holds them responsible for failing to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. He evens holds them to a greater charge of failing to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah. Thus for this great reason he has John sharply criticize them to one and all. John taunts them by saying they can take no pride in their heritage as sons of Abraham.

This Gospel story helps us to realize that our Salvation is God’s great and surprising work and that it actually begins here in the Jordan River and also will flow forever. The lesson here is that God offers salvation to people simply because they need it, not because they are children of Abraham or because they are wealthy, learned, or deserving. John tells us that this great and good news will be brought by someone else mightier than John. There is someone else coming shortly and John knows he is not worthy to carry his sandals.

When we stop and think about it, we come to realize that Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah, which is contained in the first reading this Sunday. We identify Jesus as the one upon whom the Spirit rests, offering those gifts with which we are all familiar: wisdom and understanding, counsel and strength, knowledge and fear of the Lord. This powerful reading has long been a source of hope and inspiration in our Church during the season of Advent. In fact, from the world of art, we find that the images of a peaceable kingdom have also found their way into the art that reflects the various Christmas motifs.

We realize that the unity of opposites given in Isaiah seems more or less impossible: The lion and the ox; the wolf and the lamb; the child and the adder. These images are used with great enthusiasm as Matthew desperately wants us to understand the wonders of God’s salvation. The conflicting and paradoxical images help disclose the great reality that with God the impossible is possible and that what we could never have hoped for has already happened. We learn from our literature classes in school that symbols are not to be taken literally, but the images invite us to reconsider what we once thought impossible. Clearly it is proclaimed in this weekend scripture that the message God’s answer for our hearts and lives is Jesus Christ.

Christmas Mass Schedules: We start publishing the Christmas Mass schedule now be-cause so many people are trying to arrange family gatherings for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The times are: Christmas Eve: 4:00pm (3 Masses), 6:00pm, 7:30pm, and Midnight, andChristmas Day 9:00am and 10:30am. Perhaps you would consider inviting some family members to come home to Church for Christmas and take them with you when you come to Mass. The beauty of Christmas may give light to their steps so that they will return again and again.

Father Brian