John the Baptist said to them in reply,
“Whoever has two cloaks
should share with the person who has none.
And whoever has food should do likewise….
Now the people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
“I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming…”
Discriminating among all the conflicting voices clamoring in our ears and competing for our attention is almost impossible. Politicians and newscasters claim unique access to the truth while expressing opinions which sound distressingly similar to one another. In an endless frenzy of words, the shouts of corruption and deceit of the enemy “statesmen” has become background noise.
We have become immune. We, too, speak words which are disconnected from their meaning. Our expectations at best, are flat. Or worse, absent.
We can hear the plea, “What should we do?” everywhere we look and listen, underlying each of the distracted voices…We hear it in the conversations about the state of our country, our churches, our priests.
the day we are given to relax our Advent fasting, when we light the rose third candle on the Advent wreath and see that lovely joyous color on the vestments of the priests.
Exploding into human history in a particular place at a specific time, John knew that his was the voice preparing for the Word. Prepared before birth to hear, recognize and proclaim he whose “strap I am not fit to untie,” John was not just a prophet. He was to “go before the Lord to prepare his way- to give his people knowledge of salvation.”
John was something more.
But even two thousand years ago, people had trouble distinguishing between the voice and word. Intriguing to ponder- the separation between word, and voice, and meaning. And worth far more reflection than I give it.
“Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM. “And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.”
John’s was the kind of calling I feared as a new Christian; the fear that kept me from inviting Jesus completely into my heart and soul.
What if I am asked to give up everything?
What if I am asked to live out my life alone?
What if I am asked to subject myself to persecutions and to unnamed tortures?
Intellectually, I understand that one so filled with the holy spirit while still an unborn babe that he jumped with the joy of infused grace at the approach of Jesus in the womb of Mary, has access to wisdom that I do not.
But when I think of the man, John the Baptist, I cannot get past living in the desert.. alone, eating locusts and honey, a man seemingly so consumed by his mission that he is aware of nothing else.
A man with the courage to declare unlawful the marriage of the most powerful man in the land and to do so publicly.
I am unable to imagine, visualize, even to grasp a faith like his, devotion and trust like his. The Renaissance masters felt the same way, I think. Like Donatello in his sculpture pictured above, the masters present the man as tortured and ravaged- almost haunted.
But could they and I be completely wrong?
Could his face have been one filled with the splendor and glory of Christ?
Peaceful, even beatific?
Certain of his destination?
“and blessed is he who does not take offense at Me,” and “here in the dark, I clutch the garments of God.“
In hopes that I, too, can prepare the way.