Advent Day 8 ~ The Messenger of the Son of God ~ You can be his messenger too!

baptist3

Second Sunday of Advent~ December 8, 2019

The emergence of John the Baptist, Scripture scholar William Barclay states, was like “the sudden sounding of the Voice of God.” Why? Because the prophets of Israel had been silent for four hundred years and the Jewish people were sadly conscious of that fact. And in today’s gospel, we find large crowds of people coming to hear John preach and to stand in line to be baptized by him.

He gave people hope and Challenged people to do what they ought to do; to be what they could be in a time when the world was crazy and mixed up, very similar to our own time. But he also denounced evil wherever he found it, in the state, in among the religious leaders, among the crowd.

He was a wiry character, living on the edge of the desert and he wore a shirt of camel’s hair, that in the hot sun, would have been horribly uncomfortable according to our standards.   The scriptures record that he also wore a leather belt around his waist and his diet consisted of locusts and wild honey. (Locusts are like grasshoppers.)   Have you ever had a chocolate-covered grasshopper? Actually they’re not bad. Kind of crunchy, very nutritious, with lots of protein.

People were beginning to think great things about John. Large crowds came to hear him.

His message: “Repent,  for the kingdom of God is at hand!”

(Yeah, I know.  You’ve heard that a zillion times before by street corner prophets.)

In our respectable Sunday assemblies, he would probably be looked upon with scorn;  he was certainly not the kind of guy we would expect to be the Advance Man for the Son of God.  But that’s what he was.  (And we better pay attention to his message because it is critical for our own times.)

He spoke fearlessly, unafraid of what the hypocritical religious leaders might do to him. Eventually Herod had him imprisoned and Herodias, his wife, demanded his head on a platter.

John was a prophet . . .

A voice crying out in the wilderness

Prepare the way of the Lord,

make straight his paths.

Presbyterian Scripture scholar William Barclay offers this commentary on this gospel passage.

The Baptist’s message summoned his people to righteousness. He pointed beyond himself. It was the Jewish belief that Elijah would return before the Messiah would come, and he would be the herald of the coming King (Malachi 4:5).  So, they saw him as the new Elijah.

Then he makes this interesting observation: In ancient times in the East, the roads were bad.  Ordinary roads were no more than tracks. But Solomon built a causeway of black basalt stone that lead to Jerusalem for pilgrims.  They were built by the king and for the king and called “the king’s highway.”

John was preparing the way for the king. The preacher, the teacher with the prophetic voice, points not to himself but to God.

He said he was not fit to carry the sandals of the one who was to come. Carrying sandals was the duty of a slave. John’s whole attitude was self-obliteration.  “He must increase; I must decrease,” John the evangelist would have him say.

Then John warned the Pharisees. he called them “a brood of vipers!” trying to flee the wrath to come. Barclay suggests John was thinking of the possibility of fire in the desert. A river of flame could sweep across the desert and snakes and scorpions and other creatures could be sent scurrying for their lives. (He called the Pharisees “A brood of Vipers.” Jesus said,  ” do not think you can say ‘ you have Abraham as your father.” And it was Jewish thought that the children of Abraham were safe from the “Wrath to come” simply by being Jews. But they were hedging their bets by coming to John for baptism!

Then came the promise. He said that “One would come to baptize them with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” The word for spirit  for the Jews was ruah,  meaning  breath; also meaning wind and, thus, power,  because wind drives ships. The Spirit of God is the Spirit of power.  The Spirit brought truth to God’s people.

And as for the fire, it connotes illumination, warmth, purification.  But there is also a threat.  The winnowing fan on the treshing floor will separate the wheat from the chaff.  In Christianity, there is no escape from the eternal choice.

In John. there is the basic demand: “REPENT!” And that is the basic demand of Jesus himself, “Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).  The Jewish word for repentance is itself interesting teshuba, from the verb shub, which means simply “to turn.”  Repentance is a turning away from evil and a turning towards God.  In Greek, the word is metanoia, and also means to turn around.  Maybe you’ve seen the bumper sticker that says “God allows U-turns.”  Repentance is always available. No case is hopeless for repentance; no one is beyond repentance. The Rabbis said, “Let not a man say, ‘Because I have sinned, no repair is possible for me’ but let him trust in God, and God will receive him.     (Barclay ~ The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1 pp. 43-58.)

And so, the Christmas message is that Love has entered the world.

As we enter this second week of Advent, let’s ask ourselves:

How can I prepare the way for the Lord  (or Love) ? 

By being our own messenger of Jesus (or Love)

at home, at the office, in my neighborhood,

in our country, in our politics,

in our world  ~ during this coming week.

God’s message to us in the Christmas story is Love.

That’s why he was born, entering our world as a vulnerable baby.

And that’s why he died – vulnerable / bound / nailed –

because the Father wanted us to have evidence that he loved us.

And in turn, his message is . . .

Love one another as I have loved you.  

Try it. Be a messenger yourself this week in some little way.

Now, listen and watch Prepare the Way of the Lord  from Godspell Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen. (Get a chuckle out of Jesus’ 1973 ‘Fro.)  

And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

Advent Day 16 ~ Rejoice! The Lord is near!

Third Sunday of Advent ~ Sunday December 16, 2018

In our Catholic liturgical calendar this is “Gaudete Sunday — the Sunday of Joy.    We’re more than half way through Advent and the vestment color is Rose, rather than purple, the color of penitence.  So, we see the celebrant in rose vestments.

This is supposed to be a joyful time of year but . . . some us don’t see things clearly, or can’t speak up for ourselves or are disabled.  some of us are afraid ~ disillusioned ~ confused ~ depressed ~ lonely ~ weak-kneed and in need of a good old-fashioned infusion of hope and joy, and so . . .

Brothers and sisters:
Rejoice in the Lord always.
I shall say it again: rejoice!
Your kindness should be known to all.
The Lord is near.
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4: 4-7)

In our Gospel today we hear again about John the Baptist.  The Jews were sure that God favored their nation; that God would judge other nations by one standard but the Jews by another. They felt they were safe from judgment simply because they were Jewish. John told them otherwise: that life, not their heritage was God’s standard of judgment, according to Scripture scholar William Barclay.

Barclay tells us that there are three outstanding things about John the Baptist’s message.

(1) He demanded that people should share with one another. It was a social gospel that declared that God would not be pleased if someone had too much while others had too little.

(2) He told people not to leave their jobs, but to work out their salvation by doing those jobs as they should be done. Let the tax collector be a good tax collector and a soldier be a good soldier.

The crowds asked John the Baptist,
“What should we do?”
He said to them in reply,
“Whoever has two cloaks
should share with the person who has none.
And whoever has food should do likewise.”
Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him,
“Teacher, what should we do?”
He answered them,
“Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”
Soldiers also asked him,
“And what is it that we should do?”
He told them,
“Do not practice extortion,
do not falsely accuse anyone,
and be satisfied with your wages.” (Lk 3:10-15)

In other words, when people came to the Baptist and asked, “What should we do?” he gave them the most reasonable, commonsense reply. He says, in effect, “ Live reality. God is asking you to be faithful to the ordinary circumstances of your life. He will make himself evident there.

And with that advice, “ the people were filled with expectation, asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ.” All because John made them attentive to their own hearts in a way that neglected nothing of their humanity. They can exult with their own heart because they can now trust that the desires of their heart are not illusions. They have no anxiety for the Lord is near as the next moment and whatever it brings.                         (Magnificat liturgical magazine, December, 2018, ed.)

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.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor
and to gather the wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Exhorting them in many other ways,
he preached good news to the people. 

(3)  (Barclay) John was quite sure that he himself was only the forerunner. The King was still to come and with him would come judgment. The winnowing fan was a great flat wooden shovel; with it the grain was tossed into the air, the heavy grain would fall to the ground, but the chaff would be blown away. And just as the chaff was separated from the wheat so the King would separate the good and the bad.

Thus, John painted a picture of judgment and it could be faced with confidence by those who had looked after their neighbor’s needs and faithfully done their day’s work. (Barclay / Luke pp.44.2)

John was simply the sign-post, pointing the way toward Christ.  He was faithful even unto imprisonment and death and content to simply be the messenger.

My spiritual director some time ago suggested I pray to John the Baptist, and so I do so now . .  .

O John, how lovingly you served your Lord.

I am dumbfounded at my own lack of humility,  

my refusal to serve, the meager way I have served him.  

You inspire me, even in my later years to wait upon my God to act in my life,

to wait for him to do new things.  

Thank you, John, for your service-unto-death;

ask for the grace, the strength and the courage to also serve my Lord unto the end of my days.  

     Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.  Amen.

And before you go, here is a 1970-ish John the Baptist and company from Godspell singing a spirited Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord!  Click here. 

And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d like them. Click here.

 

 

Advent Day 8 ~ The Second Sunday of Advent ~ The herald of the King

The Second Sunday of Advent ~ Sunday, December 9, 2018

As we examine the gospel of Luke this year, we see that for this gospel writer, the emergence of John the Baptist was one of the hinges on which history turned. He dramatically dates it in three different ways.  Here’s the text . . .

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, 
when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, 
and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee,
and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region
of Ituraea and Trachonitis, 
and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, 
during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, 
the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.
John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, 
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 
as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:

A voice of one crying out in the desert:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
Every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”  (Lk. 3:1-6)

First of all, he begins by citing Roman, that is, Gentile—not Jewish history.   Tiberius was the successor of Augustus and therefore the second of the Roman emperors. Luke thus begins by setting the emergence of John against a world background, that of the Roman empire—this according to scripture scholar William Barclay.

The next three dates are connected to the political organization of Palestine, mentioning Pontius Pilate, Herod and his brother Philip.

And then turning to the religious situation, he dates John’s emergence in the priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas. Caiaphas was the actual high priest, Annas was still the most influential priestly figure in the land. (All these men, of course, were also to be actors on the stage of Jesus’ trial and execution a few years later.)

Barclay suggests a unique way of understanding the quotation from Isaiah 40:3-5:

“When a king proposed to tour a part of his dominions, he sent a courier before him to tell the people to prepare the roads. So John is regarded as the King’s courier or herald. But the preparation on which he insisted was a preparation of heart and of life. ‘The King is coming,’ he said. ‘Mend. Not your roads, but your lives.’”

There’s also an interesting point about Luke’s quotation of Isaiah here that’s different from the other three gospels. He brings it to its logical conclusion: “And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Luke is the gospel for the Gentiles—the gospel for everyone; he excludes no one, like our Pope Francis.

The King shall come when morning dawns

And light triumphant breaks,

When beauty gilds the eastern hills

And life to joy awakes.

Not, as of old, a little child,

To bear, and fight, and die,

But crowned with glory like the sun

That lights the morning sky.

The King shall come when morning dawns

And light and beauty brings.

Hail, Christ the Lord! Thy people pray:

Come quickly, King of kings. 

And, before you go, here’s a rendering of Handel’s And the glory of the Lord that contains the line quoted in Isaiah.   Click here, and be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers.

And here are all of Sunday’s Mass readings for your reflection: Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman 

Contemplative Writer 

Acknowledgment:  William Barclay / The New Daily Study Bible / The Gospel of Luke                                                                                             Westminster John Knox Press / Louisville, KY / 1975-2001

 

Advent Day 8 – The Messenger of the Son of God

Second Sunday of Advent

(December 10, 2017)

Mark opens his gospel saying,

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;

he will prepare your way.

‘A voice of one crying out in the desert:

‘Prepare the way of the Lord,

make straight his paths.’”

 

Mark starts his story a long way back—not at Jesus’ birth as Luke’s Gospel does; it does not begin with John the Baptist in the wilderness. The Scripture-scholar William Barclay says it began “with the dreams of the prophets long ago; that is to say, it began in the mind of God.”

“It has been said that ‘the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts,’ and so are the thoughts of God. History is not a random kaleidoscope of disconnected events. It is a process directed by the God who sees the end in the beginning

The prophetic quotation Mark uses is suggestive.

I am sending my messenger ahead you; he will prepare your way.

This is from Malachi 3:4. In its original context it was a threat. In Malachi’s day, the priests were failing in their duty. The offerings were blemished and shoddy and second bests. The messenger was to cleanse and purify the worship in the temple before the Anointed One of God emerged on earth. So then the coming of Christ was the purification of life. Seneca called Rome ‘a cesspool of iniquity. Juvenal spoke of her ‘as the filthy sewer into which flowed the abominable dregs of every Syrian and Achaean stream.’

Where Christ is allowed to come the antiseptic of the Christian faith cleanses the moral poison of society and leaves it pure and clean.

John the Baptist came announcing a baptism of repentance. The Jew was familiar with ritual washings. Leviticus 11 -15 details them. Symbolic washing and purifying was woven into the very fabric of Jewish daily ritual.

The Jew knew baptism—as proselytes to Judaism were supposed to undergo it to cleanse them of the pollution of their past life—but the amazing thing about John’s baptism was that he, a Jew, was asking Jews to submit to that which only a Gentile was supposed to need.

Bishop Robert Barron, writing in the December issue of the Magnificat liturgical magazine (p.135), reminds us that John the Baptist was the son of Zechariah, who was a Temple priest. Since the priesthood was passed on from father to son, we must assume that whatever John was doing in the desert had something to do with Temple sacrifice.

When people came to the Temple, they were seeking remission of their sins through the mediation of their priests, but before they could do that they were obliged to undergo a ritual washing called a mikvah.

That’s what John was doing in the desert; he was drawing his followers through a purifying bath and then promising them forgiveness.

But how would that forgiveness happen? In Mark’s Gospel, John says. “One mightier than I is coming after me…..I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (1:7-8). And in John’s Gospel, the Baptist cries, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (1:29). These two statements are functionally equivalent.

John the Baptist was preparing Israel for the arrival of the definitive priest who would perform the final sacrifice by which sins would be wiped away. His water baptism was an anticipation of a fiery immersion by which Israel would be eschatologically purified, that is, for her final survival.

It is worth noting that all four Gospels compels us to approach Jesus through John the Baptist. All four Evangelists realize that we won’t understand what Jesus is doing and what he means without the interpretive key he provides by this strange desert prophet.

Barclay would add a little more description for us. It is clear that John’s ministry was hugely successful; they streamed out into the desert to listen to him and queued up to submit to his baptism. But why such an impact?

First, he was a man who lived his message. Not only his words, but his whole life was a protest against contemporary life.

Between Judea and the Dead Sea was one of the most terrible deserts in the world. It was a limestone desert; the rock is hot and blistering and sounds hollow to the feet. In the Old Testament it is sometimes called Jeshimmon—The Devastation. John was a man from the desert and from its solitudes and its desolations. He was a man who had given himself a chance to hear the voice of God.

In regard to his clothes, he wore a garment woven of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist. So did Elijah (2 Kings 1:8). To look at the man was to be reminded of the prophets of old.

And there was his simple food—locusts and wild honey, the Scriptures tell us. But “locusts” could have been a bean or a nut—the carob–that was the food of the poorest of the poor. And the honey may have been the honey wild bees make orit may be a kind of sweet sap that distills from certain trees.

So John emerged and people had to listen to a person like that. For John, the man was the message. His message was effective because he told people what they knew in their heart of hearts and the depths of their souls they were waiting for.

The Jews had a saying, “If Israel would keep the law of God perfectly for one day, the Kingdom of God would come.”

As the folk queued up to be washed in the River Jordan, they were well aware that for three hundred years the voice of prophecy had been silent. John’s message was effective because he was completely humble. His own verdict on himself was not fit even for the duty of a slave. He said, “I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.” Or as the Gospel of John relates it, “I must decrease; he must increase.”

His message was effective because he pointed to something and someone beyond himself. He told his followers that his baptism drenched them in water, but one was coming who would drench them in the Holy Spirit.

COME LORD JESUS!  

Now, listen and watch Prepare the Way of the Lord  from Godspell Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen. (Get a chuckle out of Jesus’ 1973 ‘Fro.)

 And here are today’s Mass readings . . .Click here.

William Barclay / the Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of Mark – Revised Edition                                                                  The Westminster Press / Philadelphia 1975 (pp. 13-18)

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

The Messenger of the Son of God

baptist3Second Sunday of Advent~ December 4, 2016

He lived in Judea about the same time as Jesus and is supposed to be his cousin. He was very popular. Large crowds of people came to hear him preach and to stand in line to be baptized by him. He gave people hope and called people to their senses in a time when the world was crazy and mixed up, very similar to our own time.

He was a wiry character. He lived on the edge of the desert and wore a shirt of camel’s hair, that in the hot sun, would have been horribly uncomfortable.  I would surmise that he was pretty smelly out there in the desert.   The scriptures record that he also wore a leather belt around his waist. His diet consisted of locusts and wild honey. (Locusts are like grasshoppers.)   Have you ever had a chocolate-covered grasshopper? Actually they’re not bad. Kind of crunchy. And very nutritious. Lots of protein.

Well, anyway, people were beginning to think great things about John. Large crowds came to hear him.

His message: “Repent,  for the kingdom of God is at hand!”

(Yeah, I know.  You’ve heard that  a zillion times before by street corner prophets.)

In our respectable Sunday assemblies, he would probably be looked upon with scorn;  he was certainly not the kind of guy we would expect to be the Advance Man for the Son of God.  But that’s what he was.  (And we better pay attention to his message – which we’ll do this week – because it is critical for our own times.)

He preached with exuberance and passion and sometimes with fury.  He raged at many of the Pharisees and Sadducees:  “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (And I’m sure they seethed and you can be sure they were out to get him.

He spoke fearlessly, unafraid of what the hypocritical religious leaders might do to him. Eventually Herod had him imprisoned and Herodias, his wife, demanded his head on a platter.

John was a prophet . . .

A voice crying out in the wilderness

Prepare the way of the Lord,

make straight his paths.

In today’s readings we find, Matthew has John saying: 

        One who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy carry his sandals.

        He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire (Mt 3:10-11).

In our respectable Sunday assemblies, though, he would probably be looked upon with scorn;  he was certainly not the kind of guy we would expect to be the Messenger for the Son of God.  But that’s what he was.  (And we better pay attention to his message because it is critical for our own times.)

He spoke fearlessly, unafraid of what the hypocritical religious leaders might do to him. Eventually Herod had him imprisoned and Herodias demanded his head on a platter.

The Presbyterian Scripture scholar William Barclay offers this commentary on this gospel passage.

The Baptist’s message summoned his people to righteousness. He pointed beyond himself. It was the Jewish belief that Elijah would return before the Messiah would come, and he would be the herald of the coming King (Malachi 4:5).  

Then he makes this interesting observation: In ancient times in the East, the roads were bad.  Ordinary roads were no more than tracks. But Solomon built a causeway of black basalt stone that lead to Jerusalem for pilgrims.  They were built by the king and for the king and called “the king’s highway.”

John was preparing the way for the king. The preacher, the teacher with the prophetic voice, points not to himself but to God.

Then John warned the Pharisees. he called them “a brood of vipers!” trying to flee the wrath to come.

Then came the promise. He said he was not fit to carry the sandals of the one who was to come. Carrying sandals was the duty of a slave. John’s whole attitude was self-obliteration.  “He must increase; I must decrease,” John the evangelist would have him say.

He said that One would come to baptize them with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  The word for spirit  for the Jews was ruah,  meaning  breath; also meaning wind and, thus, power,  because wind drives ships. The Spirit of God is the Spirit of power.  The Spirit brought truth to God’s people.

And as for the fire, it connotes illumination, warmth, purification.  But there is also a threat.  The winnowing fan on the treshing floor will separate the wheat from the chaff.  In Christianity, there is no escape from the eternal choice.

In John. there is the basic demand: “REPENT!” And that is the basic demand of Jesus himself, “Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).  The Jewish word for repentance is itself interesting teshuba, from the verb shub, which means simply “to turn.”  Repentance is a turning away from evil and a turning towards God.  In Greek, the word is metanoia, and also means to turn around.  Maybe you’ve seen the bumper sticker that says “God allows U-turns.”  Repentance is always available. No case is hopeless for repentance; no one is beyond repentance. The Rabbis said, “Let not a man say,’Because I have sinned, no repair is possible for me’ but let him trust in God, and God will receive him.     (Barclay ~ The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1 pp. 43-58.)

And so, the Christmas message is that Love has entered the world.

As we enter this second week of Advent, let’s ask ourselves:

How can I prepare the way for the Lord  (or Love)

at home,

at the office,

in my neighborhood,

in our country,

in our politics,

in our world  ~ this week?

God’s message to us in the Christmas story is Love.

That’s why he was born, entering our world as a vulnerable baby.

And that’s why he died – vulnerable / bound / nailed –

because the Father wanted us to have evidence that he loved us.

And in turn, his message is . . .

Love one another as I have loved you.

Now, listen and watch Prepare the Way of the Lord  from Godspell Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen. (Get a chuckle out of Jesus’ 1973 ‘Fro.)  

And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here. 

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

Advent Day 15 ~ Rejoice! The Lord is near!

IMG_0151Third Sunday of Advent

In our Catholic liturgical calendar this is “Gaudete Sunday — the Sunday of Joy.    We’re half way through Advent and the vestment color is Rose, rather than purple, the color of penitence.  So, we see the celebrant in rose vestments.

This is supposed to be a joyful time of year but . . . some us don’t see things clearly, or can’t speak up for ourselves or are disabled.  some of us are afraid / disillusioned / confused / depressed / lonely / weak-kneed and in need of a good old-fashioned infusion of hope and joy, so . . .

Brothers and sisters:
Rejoice in the Lord always.
I shall say it again: rejoice!
Your kindness should be known to all.
The Lord is near.
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4: 4-7)

In our Gospel today we hear again about John the Baptist.  The Jews were sure that God favored their nation; that God would judge other nations by one standard but the Jews by another. They felt they were safe from judgment simply because they were Jewish. John told them otherwise: that life, not their heritage was God’s standard of judgment, according to Scripture scholar William Barclay.

Barclay tells us that there are three outstanding things about John the Baptist’s message.

(1) He demanded that people should share with one another. It was a social gospel that declared that God would not be pleased if someone had too much while others had too little.

(2) He told people not to leave their jobs, but to work out their salvation by doing those jobs as they should be done. Let the tax collector be a good tax collector and a soldier be a good soldier.

The crowds asked John the Baptist,
“What should we do?”
He said to them in reply,
“Whoever has two cloaks
should share with the person who has none.
And whoever has food should do likewise.”
Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him,
“Teacher, what should we do?”
He answered them,
“Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”
Soldiers also asked him,
“And what is it that we should do?”
He told them,
“Do not practice extortion,
do not falsely accuse anyone,
and be satisfied with your wages.” (Lk 3:10-15)

In other words, when people came to the Baptist and asked, “What should we do?” he gave them the most reasonable, commonsense reply. He says, in effect, “ Live reality. God is asking you to be faithful to the ordinary circumstances of your life. He will make himself evident there.

And with that advice, “ the people were filled with expectation, asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ.” In their expectation, they are like Simeon, who awaited Israel’s consolation (Lk 2:25). (Magnificat/ Dec. issue)

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.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor
and to gather the wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Exhorting them in many other ways,
he preached good news to the people. 

(3)  (Barclay) John was quite sure that he himself was only the forerunner. The King was still to come and with him would come judgment. The winnowing fan was a great flat wooden shovel; with it the grain was tossed into the air, the heavy grain would fall to the ground, but the chaff would be blown away. And just as the chaff was separated from the wheat so the King would separate the good and the bad.

Thus, John painted a picture of judgment and it could be faced with confidence by those who had looked after their neighbor’s needs and faithfully done their day’s work. (Barclay / Luke pp.44.2)

John was simply the sign-post, pointing the way toward Christ.  He was faithful even unto imprisonment and death and content to simply be the messenger.

My spiritual director some time ago suggested I pray to John the Baptist, and so I do so now . .  .

O John, how lovingly you served your Lord.

I am dumbfounded at my own lack of humility,  

my refusal to serve, my paltriness when I do serve.  

You inspire me, even in my later years to wait upon my God to act in my life,

to wait for him to do new things.  

Thank you, John, for your service-unto-death;

ask for me the grace, the strength and the courage to also serve my Lord unto the end of my days.  

      Amen.

And before you go, here is a 1970-ish John the Baptist and company from Godspell singing a spirited Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord!  Click here. 

And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d like them. Click here.

 

 

The herald of the King

baptist3THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT

As we examine the gospel of Luke this year, we see that for this gospel writer, the emergence of John the Baptist was one of the hinges on which history turned. He dramatically dates it in six different ways.  Here’s the text . . .

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, 
when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, 
and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee,
and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region
of Ituraea and Trachonitis, 
and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, 
during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, 
the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.
John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, 
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 
as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
Every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”  (Lk. 3:1-6)

First of all, he begins by citing Roman, Gentile—not Jewish history.   Tiberius was the successor of Augustus and therefore the second of the Roman emperors. Luke thus begins by setting the emergence of John against a world background, that of the Roman empire—this according to scripture scholar William Barclay.

The next three dates are connected to the political organization of Palestine, mentioning Pontius Pilate, Herod and his brother Philip.

And then turning to the religious situation, he dates John’s emergence in the priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas. Caiaphas was the actual high priest, Annas was still the most influential priestly figure in the land. (All these men, of course, were also to be actors on the stage of Jesus’ trial and execution a few years later.)

Barclay suggests a unique way of understanding the quotation from Isaiah 40:3-5:

“When a king proposed to tour a part of his dominions, he sent a courier before him to tell the people to prepare the roads. So John is regarded as the King’s courier or herald. But the preparation on which he insisted was a preparation of heart and of life. ‘The King is coming,’ he said. ‘Mend. Not your roads, but your lives.’”

There’s also an interesting point about Luke’s quotation of Isaiah here that’s different from the other three gospels. He brings it to its logical conclusion: “And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Luke is the gospel for the Gentiles—the gospel for everyone; he excludes no one, like our Pope Francis.

The King shall come when morning dawns

And light triumphant breaks,

When beauty gilds the eastern hills

And life to joy awakes.

Not, as of old, a little child,

To bear, and fight, and die,

But crowned with glory like the sun

That lights the morning sky.

The King shall come when morning dawns

And light and beauty brings.

Hail, Christ the Lord! Thy people pray:

Come quickly, King of kings. 

And, before you go, here’s a rendering of Handel’s And the glory of the Lord that contains the line quoted in Isaiah.      Click here, and be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers.

And here are all of Sunday’s Mass readings for your reflection: Click here.  

With love, Bob Traupman 

Contemplative Writer 

Acknowledgment:  William Barclay / The New Daily Study Bible / The Gospel of Luke                                                                                             Westminster John Knox Press / Louisville, KY / 1975-2001

 

Advent Day 8 – The Messenger of the Son of God

Second Sunday of Advent

Who is this John the Baptist?

(To read today’s Mass readings go to the link at the bottom of the page.)

Mark opens his gospel saying,

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;

he will prepare your way.

‘A voice of one crying out in the desert:

‘Prepare the way of the Lord,

make straight his paths.’”

He lived in Judea about the same time as Jesus and is supposed to be his cousin. He was very popular. Large crowds of people came to hear him preach and to stand in line to be baptized by him. He gave people hope and called people to their senses in a time when the world was crazy and mixed up, not unlike our own time.

He was a wiry character. He lived on the edge of the desert and wore a shirt of camel’s hair, that in the hot sun, would have been horribly uncomfortable.  I would surmise that he was pretty smelly out there in the desert.   The scriptures record that he also wore a leather belt around his waist. His diet consisted of locusts and wild honey. (Locusts are like grasshoppers.)   Have you ever had a chocolate-covered grasshopper? Actually they’re not bad. Kind of crunchy. And very nutritious. Lots of protein.

Well, anyway, people were beginning to think great things about John. Large crowds came to hear him.

In our respectable Sunday assemblies, though, he would probably be looked upon with scorn;  he was certainly not the kind of guy we would expect to be the Messenger for the Son of God.  But that’s what he was.  (And we better pay attention to his message because it is critical for our own times.)

He spoke fearlessly, unafraid of what the hypocritical religious leaders might do to him. Eventually Herod had him imprisoned and Herodias demanded his head on a platter.

And this is what he proclaimed:

“One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the holy Spirit.”

In John’s Gospel, he adds the wonderful line, “He must increase, I must decrease.” (Jn. 3:30) (That, by the way, gives us the date of the birthday of Jesus near the winter solstice when the days start get longer and John’s birthday ~ June 24th ~ is near the summer solstice when they start to get short again.

And so, the Christmas message is that Love has entered the world.

As we enter this second week of Advent, let’s ask ourselves:

How can I prepare the way for the Lord  (or Love)

at home,

at the office,

in my neighborhood,

in our country,

in our politics,

in our world  ~ this week?

God’s message to us in the Christmas story is Love.

That’s why he was born, entering our world as a vulnerable baby.

And that’s why he died – vulnerable / bound / nailed –

because the Father wanted us to have evidence that he loved us.

And in turn, his message is . . .

Love one another as I have loved you.

Let’s stop blaming others for what’s wrong and realize and repent of our own responsibility.

Let’s do it this week — this second week of Advent,

And then we will truly have a beautiful / meaningful /joyful / authentic Christmas celebration.

We don’t need all the frenzied shopping or giving frivolous, expensive gifts.

Our children don’t need lots of stuff.  For one thing, you need more silence in your house, not more noise!  (We’ll get to the need for silence in our lives in a few days.)

Celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah by being kinder, more gentle and cheerful.  Hold doors open for the folks behind you upon entering a store.

And, as I said yesterday, think about and pray about reconciling with a friend you’re at odds with.  Smooth out hurt feelings.  Give somebody – anybody – the gift of your presence rather than presents.

And now, here’s my personal prayer on this Second Sunday of Advent:

Jesus,

You have allowed me, your priest-servant the grace

to prepare the way for You in the lives on many people  over forty years ~

children / octogenarians / homeless / imprisoned / dying /

grieving / celebrating / becoming Catholic / non-believers /

gay / parishioners / mentally ill / neighbors /  friends / strangers.

What an honor and privilege!

Thank you, Lord for that awesome grace!

And please forgive me and heal the hurt of anyone whom I have turned away from You by my failures and sins.

I remember and pray for so many of them today.

I am eager to continue doing so in my writing.  Guide my pen (my cursor), Lord.

And what a joy it would be if those whose lives I have touched in written word or in person realize they, too, can prepare the way for you in our troubled world.

Come, Lord Jesus!  

Here are today’s Mass readings . . . Click here.

Now, listen and watch Prepare the Way of the Lord  from Godspell Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen. (Get a chuckle out of Jesus’ 1973 ‘Fro.)

 You might want to look up the following scripture references for Mass during the coming week if you have time: (Matthew 3:1-17 / 14:1-12 // Mark 1:1-8. // Luke 1: 39-45 / 1:57 – 80 // 3:1-20 / 7:18-35 // John 1:15-34 / 3:22-30

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

Advent Day 17 – What’s it all about?

Tuesday of the third week of Advent 

Dear reader,

I’ve decided to take a deeper turn in this Advent blog.

As I get closer to Christmas, my prayer is opening up to two things in the last few days.

(1) a deeper realization of my sinfulness and frail human nature.

and (2) an ongoing surrender to the process of transformation that is occurring in me as I turn my life and my will over to God.

That, ongoing dual process ~  “a kind of coincidence of opposites,” dear friends, is what gives meaning and joy to my life.

The Church invites us to enter into that process of ongoing repentance and conversion each year during Advent.

To step out of the rat race. To take a look at our maneuvering / scheming / elbowing for status or power or success or prestige. Or any of the things American society tells us we’re supposed to have to make us happy.

The wise person realizes they won’t!

Let’s reflect a little more on what we can learn from John the Baptist what it’s all about . . .

He was a pretty successful preacher.  People were streaming out into the desert to listen to him; he was persuasive.  People were willing to change their lives after listening to him.

But he didn’t let it go to his head.  He realized what his role was.  He was just the “advance man.”  And was content with that.

He knew who he was.  He didn’t let success go to his head.  He didn’t want to be the star.  Even though many thought he was “The Man.

The saying of John that I love and pray often myself is:

       “He must increase; I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

My spiritual director remind me to stay focused on Jesus. To make all my plans provisional.

“To seek through prayer and meditation knowledge of God’s will and the power to carry it out,”  as the Eleventh  Step of Alcoholics Anonymous puts it.

I was a young, cool, creative priest.  I was a rising star.  I thought I was pretty hot stuff.

A bishop once told my father, “He’ll be a bishop someday.”

But God had other plans.

I ended up strapped to a gurney with a massive shot of Thorazine in the lower regions of my posterior and have had several bouts of the crazies in 32 years.

Today, I’m just a little guy, content  with a tiny flock to care for and writing a little blog few know about.

Arrogance was my greatest character defect and it has taken till recently to whittle that away.

And so today I pray inspired by the one who was content to live in the wilderness . . .

Jesus, You are the light of my life.

Without You I would be nowhere.  Nada. Nothing.

And that’s fine with me.

(And to tell ya the truth, I’m amazed at that! That’s quite a transformation for me!)

I want You to be in all my relationships,

in all of my writing,

in everything.

You help me to be humble, Lord.  You cast me down and raised me up again.

You chastise me; You heal me.

With St. Paul, You have helped me realize that in the midst of my brokenness,

it was ~ and is ~ You who make me strong.

Not in the ways of this world,  with ambition or striving for power or success or influence,

but in knowing You are right here:  You are enough for me, Lord.

Whatever flows from my relationship with You will be good

as I allow You more and more to increase

and  allow my false self, my little (Big) ego to fall away.

To  be humble is to be close to the “humus” — “muck”.

So, I’m content with the muckiness of my life.

And yet, You have surprised me / delighted me / ravished me with Your love

       And you know what? 

There, I found You!

You raised me up!  You drew me to Yourself!

You bound up my wounds!  You clothed me with LOVE!

What a joy!

And now I’m eager to share Your Love.

To help others realize that You love each and everyone ~ no matter what.

But You want us to love You in return.

Yes, Lord Jesus, You must increase; I must decrease.

Let me never ever forget that.  No matter what.

Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus!

In the coming days I will try to have you take a deeper look at  the mystery of the Incarnation — God’s love affair with our messy /mucky / crazy  human race as it is appears in Luke’s story that God came into our world as a vulnerable, homeless baby who cooed and pooped in his pants like the rest of us.  That story ~even if you just accept as a story ~ has much to teach us.  Let’s take a fresh look at it and go down to a deeper level.  We’ll do that in the next week.

Here is an inspiring YouTube orchestral and voice arrangement of J. S. Bach’s lovely Advent piece sung by Josh Groban.       Click here.  Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer


Advent Day 8 ~ Jesus Wild n’ Wooly Advance Man

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Second Sunday of Advent

He probably looked like someone from the cast of the old musical Hair or a hippie.

He lived in the wild in the desert of Judea.

He wore clothing made of camel’s hair, that I’m sure was – um – uncomfortable in the desert’s heat.  (He was probably pretty stinky.)

His scrumptious diet was locusts and wild honey ~yuck!

His message: “Repent,  for the kingdom of God is at hand!”

(Yeah, I know.  You’ve heard that  a zillion times before by street corner prophets.)

In our – um – respectable Sunday assemblies, he would probably be looked upon with scorn;  he was certainly not the kind of guy we would expect to be the Advance Man for the Son of God.  But that’s what he was.  (And we better pay attention to his message – which we’ll do this week – because it is critical for our own times.)

He was Jesus’ cousin, born only a few months before the Lord.  The pair may have played together as kids.  And John, must’ve gotten to know Jesus well enough to  perceive what his role would be in history.

As a result, he preached with exuberance and passion and sometimes with fury.  He raged at many of the Pharisees and Sadducees:  “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (And I’m sure they seethed and you can be sure they were out to get him.

He spoke fearlessly, unafraid of what the hypocritical religious leaders might do to him. Eventually Herod had him imprisoned and Herodias, his wife, demanded his head on a platter.

John was a prophet . . .

A voice crying out in the wilderness

Prepare the way of the Lord,

make straight his paths.

In today’s readings we find, Matthew has John saying: 

        One mightier than I is coming after me.  I am not worthy to loosen his sandals.

        He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire (Mt 3:10-11).

The Christmas message is that Love has entered the world.

As we enter this second week of Advent, let’s ask ourselves:

How can I prepare the way for the Lord  (or Love, if you do not  share our  Christian faith,)

at home,

at the office,

in your neighborhood,

in our country,

in our politics,

in our world — this week?

God’s message to us in the Christmas story is Love.

That’s why he was born, entering our world as a vulnerable baby.

And that’s why he died – vulnerable / bound / nailed –

because the Father wanted us to have evidence that he loved us.

And in turn, his message is . . .

Love one another as I have loved you.

Right now, there’s a lot of hatred going around.

There are hate groups all over our country.  Over 900 documented armed hate groups.

There’s hatred toward Muslims.  I have Muslim friends.  They are devout and wonderful people.

There’s hatred toward gay people.  I have gay friends.  And they’re as decent and often as devout as those who sit in the front pews of our churches.

Some of our kids suffer from bullying ~ even to the point of committing suicide.

Yes, indeed! We have lots of need to repent.

How ’bout you, dear reader?

Is there hatred or love in your heart?

If we hate even one person, we cause hate to have its sway anywhere.

And the opposite is true as well — if we love one person sacrificially, love enters the world in a powerful way.

Let’s do it this week — this second week of Advent,

And then we will truly have a beautiful / meaningful /joyful / authentic Christmas celebration.

We don’t need all the frenzied shopping or frivolous, expensive gift-giving.

Celebrate Christmas  by being kinder, gentler, cheerier.

Hold the door open for the folks behind you when you enter a store.  Smile!

Think about and pray about reconciling with a friend you’re at odds with.  Smooth out hurt feelings.  Give somebody – anybody – the gift of your presence rather than presents.

Recently, as I was taking my groceries to the car I smiled at an older woman who was poorly dressed and who seemed troubled.  Her name was Sylvia, an immigrant from one of the islands.  She called after me and I took the time to listen to her, thereby allowing her to be recognized as a person, if just for a moment.  I stopped to pray with her a moment that God would send her an angel to help with a serious problem.  She said to me: “You are my angel!”  Perhaps I was.  Perhaps I was the instrument of grace to turn her life around.  You never know.

Your children don’t need a lot of stuff ~ especially stuff that makes a lot of noise!   (We’ll get to the need for silence in our lives in a few days.)

And now, here’s my personal prayer on this Second Sunday of Advent:

Jesus,

You have allowed me, your priest/servant the grace

to prepare the way for You in the lives on many people  over 44 years–

children / octogenarians / homeless / guys in jail / those dying /

grieving / celebrating / becoming Catholic / non-believers /

gay / parishioners / mentally ill / neighbors /  friends / strangers.

What an honor, what a privilege!

Thank you, Lord for that awesome grace!

And please forgive me and heal the hurt of anyone whom I have turned away from You by my failures and sins.

I remember and pray for so many of them today.

I am eager to continue doing so in my writing.

Guide my pen (my cursor), Lord.

And what a joy it would be if those whose lives I have touched through my written word or in person realize they, too, can prepare the way for you in our troubled world.

Come, Lord Jesus!  

You might also might like to look over the Mass readings for today. Click here. (Hint: To get back to this page (if your not tech Savvy) at the very top left or your computer you’ll see the word “back”; above it is an (<). Click on it and voila! it will bring you right back to this page and . . .

 

Your light will come dear people of God;

the Lord will dawn on you in radiant beauty.

You will see his glory within YOU!

The Lord will dawn on you in radiant beauty.

                  ~ the Advent Liturgy. 

Now before you go, here’s a wonderful surprise video for you. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

This week we’ll reflect on what Jesus’ wild and wooly advance man has to say to us and our times.  You might want to look up the following scripture references over the next week if you have time: (Matthew 3:1-17 / 14:1-12 // Mark 1:1-8. // Luke 1: 39-45 / 1:57 – 80 // 3:1-20 / 7:18-35 // John 1:15-34 / 3:22-30

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer