Sunday, December 4, 2011

2nd Sunday of Advent

Today is the Second Sunday of Advent.  Time is moving rapidly as we approach the Great Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord.   A homily about John the Baptist is attached followed by some disparate photos.  I spent much of today cleaning off the desk, doing laundry and other tasks.  During a break I scrolled through many photos, gabbing ones I felt like grabbing.  No coherence to the choices.

Is 40:1-5,
Ps 85:9-10, 11-12, 13-14
2 Pt 3:8-14
Mk 1:1-8

One of my favorite memories from med school is of the Saturday night several of us went to dinner in Center City and then to the Forrest Theater to see a performance of "Godspell."  Godspell opened on Broadway in May 1971.  Subtitled, "A Musical Based Upon the Gospel According to St. Matthew," it was quite a romp.   After blowing the shofar the John the Baptist character intoned the words, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord."  As more and more voices and musical instruments joined to repeat this invitation, the number became an increasingly loud, complicated and joyous rock dance number.  In Philly most of the cast came onto the stage from the back of the theater, singing and dancing their ways down the aisle.  (I will not attach the You Tube clip of my interpretation of this scene).  This particular song always comes to mind at this time of the year because, no matter which Sunday cycle is being read, the gospel on the second and third Sundays of Advent focuses on John the Baptist, the prophet who was Jesus' herald; the prophet who described himself as unworthy to untie Jesus' sandals.

The degree of John's kinship with Jesus is not clear.  Luke's magnificent first chapter describes the first encounter between John and Jesus.  " . . . and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit cried out in a loud voice and said 'Most Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leapt for joy." 

Who was this herald?  In paintings, movies, and the bizarre modern genre of novels in which Jesus and Mary Magdalene are portrayed as having a bunch of kids and moving to a condo in the Florida Keys, John the Baptist is depicted as something between a drugged-out hippie and a wild-eyed lunatic.  We know he dressed in animal skins and consumed a diet that, by modern standards, may be considered inedible except on a few weird extreme eating shows on the Food Channel, Discovery and their ilk.

Fortunately we have credible testimony about John from a variety of sources.  Luke's gospel, in particular, situates John's appearance in time at around A.D. 27.  In addition to being attested in all four Gospels, John is mentioned in the Antiquities of Josephus, an historian who lived from about A.D. 37 to 100.  He wrote the following about John: "He was a good man and had exhorted the Jews to lead righteous lives, to practice justice toward their fellows and piety toward God, and in so doing to join in baptism.  In his view this was a necessary preliminary if baptism was to be acceptable to God.  They must not employ it to gain pardon for whatever sins they committed, but as a consecration of the body implying that the soul was already thoroughly cleansed by right behavior." 

John's mode of dressing was no different from that of any other desert dweller.  The fur was necessary during cold desert nights.  His diet had nothing to do with radical vegetarianism but with the much more prosaic need to maintain ritual dietary purity according to Jewish law.  His dress and diet are ultimately irrelevant.  His message, however, is as relevant to us today as it was to the ancient Judeans who sought him out and those whom he criticized.  That is the message we must hear if we are to prepare ourselves for the great Feast of Christmas.

Josephus wrote that John "exhorted the Jews to lead righteous lives, to practice justice toward their fellows and piety toward God."  Justice toward others.  Piety toward God.  As we approach the great Feast of Christmas--a Holy Day NOT a holiday despite the U.S. government's insistence--we are all called to cry out the good news at the top of our voices.  We are all called to prepare the way of the Lord.

Once I get moved I want to hang some black and white photos.  This is a favorite of Ignatius Hung, SJ in silhouette atop of Ci-en Pagoda at Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan.  
While we are in Taiwan, here is a photo of a poster for Christmas at Fu-Jen Catholic University.  
And these are some of the lights hung for Christmas at Fu-Jen. 
And now for Australia.  One rainy day I was playing with photos of a butterfly.  This should be on a late 1960's t-shirt or kid's lunchbox.  It was obviously processed rather heavily. 
In New England we have first, The Chapel of the Holy Spirit at Campion Center in Weston, MA.  Some time in February this will be home as I assume new duties up there.  As noted in an earlier entry I pronounced vows in front of this altar and celebrated my first Mass behind it.  Some day my coffin will lie in front of it.  This is the first photo since it was refurbished, painted and so on.  Looks magnificent.
While at Campion over Thanksgiving I had the opportunity to visit my novitiate classmate John Predmore, SJ. at Eastern Point Retreat House in Gloucester, MA.  We did our first long retreat at Gloucester (John also did tertianship in Australia).  The overturned Adirondack chair was a reminder that it is late autumn. 
The next is a photo through the window in an old shed.   There is something very Wyeth Country about this one. 
On the First Sunday of Advent All Saint's Parish in Plymouth, PA had the joy of celebrating a Mass of Thanksgiving at which Rev. Mr. William Jenkins served as deacon for the first time following his ordination a day earlier. The photo was taken from the back through the glass doors with the reflections of the main doors on the right.   Bill is the deacon in the middle. 
Continue to have a Blessed Advent Season. 
+Fr. Jack, SJ

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