Letters from a Pastor to His People- December 8, 2019
John the Baptist was a man who was anything but superficial. He wasn't into appearances or externals. He lived in his Cousin's shadow his whole life, and it didn't bother him one bit. John was a "no-nonsense" kinda guy. If you're a person who struggles with appearances and 'keeping up with the Joneses', then perhaps you could think of praying with John.
John's parents, Elizabeth and Zachariah, died when he was young, since they conceived miraculously at an elderly age. He then went off to join the Essene community, which was a group of ascetics. He wasn't afraid to dress in camel fur and eat weird things, like locusts and honey, and he certainly wasn't afraid to call people out. "You brood of vipers!" he yells at the Pharisees and Sadducees. "Repent!" he yells to everyone.
John didn't waste time living superficially. He wanted the same of his disciples, and the same of us. He wants us to truly live, and this is where the notion of repentance comes into play.
Repentance means traveling to the heart and living authentically. To do that means, like we mentioned last week, removing the things to which we are attached. When we repent, we get to the root. We hear, by the way, a lot about roots and stumps in Isaiah today. "A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom" (Isaiah 11:1).
One way to repent is the Sacrament of Confession. Let's unpack it a bit. Say you confess that you stole a loaf of bread from Happy Foods. That particular sin would be the external, dare we say superficial level. To repent would be to get to the root of that sin, for all sins have something deeper to them. Why do you steal the loaf of bread? Is it because you're attached to your money and don't want to give anything away? Is it because you have some addiction or compulsion? Is it because you hate the owner of Happy Foods? What is behind the sin? If you can ask yourself that question, pray with it, and invite Jesus into the source area, then you'll have repented.
It's fitting that John uses this image of the wheat and chaff. To separate the wheat the farmer would toss the stalk into the air and because the grain or the wheat was heavy, that part would sink straight down. The chaff, which was lighter, would be blown to the side by the wind. Then someone would brush the chaff into a pile to be burned, while the wheat, which had sunk down, would be gathered to the barn.
This notion of the wheat being the "true material" is like the root of our sin or simply the root of anything we do in life. If we can repent, then we can live with full self-knowledge and freedom. Let's ask John the Baptist to help us repent.
The Women's Center Advent/Christmas Wreaths are on sale in the back of the church this weekend.
Again, this is from the American Bishops about the Feast of the Immaculate Conception today/tomorrow:
Since December 8, 2019, is the Second Sunday of Advent, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is transferred to Monday, December 9, 2019. The obligation to attend Mass, however, does not transfer. The Optional Memorial of Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, December 9, is omitted this year.
Masses on Monday, December 9th will at 7am and 8:30am in the chapel, as usual.
Yours in Christ,