Second Sunday of Advent: If We Want Change, We Need To Change
He didn't look like them. He didn't talk like them. He was not part of the crowd that had always held power. But the people listened, and followed.
John the Baptist dressed in camel's hair and had a leather belt. He didn't dress like the Scribes, Pharisees and Temple priests. John the Baptist talked about change that was certainly coming. The thing is for the change to take place, it was the people who had to change. If there is going to be no more war, then people need to stop hating others. If there is going to be charity and care for all, then people needed to look inside their hearts and pull out the justice of God that resides there. If there is going to be change, then people needed to change.
"Prepare for the Lord," John the Baptist proclaimed. "Prepare for the Lord by preparing yourselves."
And the people from throughout the Judean countryside and the inhabitants of Jerusalem went out to the Jordan River where John was preaching. And they confessed their sins. And they were baptized. And the change had begun.
We all want our country and our world to be better. We all want a cure for cancer and AIDS and malnutrition, and every ailment or condition that is killing people. We all want the poor to be cared for. We all want an end to violence both that which is carried out by terrorists and that which takes place in every town and city throughout the world. We all want peace. But what are we doing about it? The heart of John the Baptist's message is that if we want change, if we really want the One who will reform the world and return mankind to God's original plan, then we need to change.
This is tough. It is just so much easier to sit back and expect the government to change, the world to change, other people to change. But if we really want change we can believe in, the we need to change.
The Gospel is calling us to look to ourselves. How do we respond when we are called to choose love or hate? So often we choose hate. We claim that our hatred is justified. But hatred is never justified. Let me give you some examples. You have a co-worker who is jealous of you. He can't stand the fact that you gained a position in two years that took him five years to attain. He is continually making snide remarks regarding you, outright lies to be exact. You are concerned that they will get to your supervisor. "I have a right to hate him," you claim. Only none of us ever have a right to hate.
Or perhaps you are an intelligent student who has a teacher that can't stand the fact that you are more intelligent than he is. He looks for opportunities to mock us in front of your classmates. You have blonde hair; so he makes blond jokes looking right at you, and everybody in the class laughs. Except you. You want to respond with hatred. "I have a right to hate him," you claim. Only none of us ever has the right to hate. A final example. Perhaps, you have had a relative, maybe even a sibling or a parent, who constantly belittles you. My guess is that most of us have had this situation. How have we responded? Sadly, many times we have responded by matching nastiness with nastiness. How can we expect there to be peace in the world, when we respond to hate with hate?
God is calling us to look into ourselves and respond to hate with love. If we want the world to change, we need to change.
Every year many of you join us priests as we go on rants about how society is trying to destroy the meaning of Christmas. We decry the use of the terms Holiday Season or Winter Holidays, or Seasons Greetings, as well we should. We are saddened that a spiritual celebration has been transformed into a series of parties. And we should be sad. But, perhaps, we should all be less concerned with the commercialization of Christmas and the debasement of Christmas and be more concerned with how we ourselves plan to celebrate Christmas. More than that, we should be more concerned with how we are celebrating Advent. What exactly are you and I doing to prepare the world for Jesus Christ? John the Baptist tells us is to look within ourselves, change our own attitudes, and then trust God to allow this change to have a part in the transformation the world.
Change will only take place if we are the ones who change. That is what it means to Prepare for the Lord.