Sunday, December 8, 2019
You brood of vipers! Who told you to flee from the wrath to come?
John is talking about the conversion of us, Pharisees and Sadducees —us educated, conscientious people, who show up and give and volunteer. The clergy rely on us and praise us.
Conversion wells up from the deepest part of our being. Conversion is a purifying, a re-ordering, a channeling of my deepest affections.
Only by yearning for God can I hope to know myself, as daughter, as son, as sister and brother.
Neither sentimental nor dramatic, affection is not an emotion. It is intentional. It requires discipline, creativity, and spontaneity.
I take responsibility to form my mind and heart about what really matters and then change my life accordingly, because I want to know how to adore and serve in this moment. I focus. I pay attention.
I begin to live a life that each day proclaims Christ with joy and serenity, a life that faces adversity without bitterness and retaliation.
We need to let the Baptist rattle the windows and pound on the door: Wake up! Do not pride yourselves on the claim, “Abraham is our father. I’m a Catholic. I go to St. Ignatius. I ama Jesuit.”
Is my life really rooted in God and in seeking the common good? Is it bearing fruit for others? Is your porridge ever just right?
You and I have much to repent—mostly living in our own bubble, resisting change, and being irritated if invited beyond our self-imposed boundaries—and I’m in the front row!
You and I must allow ourselves to be confronted. As Montaigne wrote:
We need very strong ears to hear ourselves judged frankly, and because there are so few who can endure frank criticism without being stung by it, those who venture to criticize us perform a remarkable act of friendship, for to undertake to wound or offend a man for his own good is to have a healthy love for him.[i]
God’s healthy love prompts the Baptist to shout at us. May we have the strength and humility to listen. He calls you within, to the desert of the human heart. Make straight the path.
This shouting will end and Jesus will be the final word. This Word will come in the silence of the night, not with the promised wrath, but in great humility, with love beyond all telling.
From all eternity, the infinite Creator has planned to be found by hiding in vulnerable, ambivalent humanity, in us and among us.
In these days, God is hoping you and I will find anew the joy his presence within us creates. Listen again to the opening collect:
God of the living, arouse in us a desire for true conversion; so that, renewed by your Holy Spirit, we might bring to every relationship that justice, meekness, and peace that the Incarnation of your Word has caused to blossom on our earth.
E così sia—and may it be so.
[i]The Great Thoughts. ed. George Seldes. NY: Ballantine Books, 1985.