Our opening prayer today is powerful and is challenging: May no earthly undertaking hinder those who set out in haste to meet your Son!
Does that describe us today? Do we really enter into this Advent season with eagerness, with a commitment to let nothing hinder us from experiencing, knowing and embracing Christ Jesus? Is it really worthwhile? After all there are lots of other things on our plates.
In the midst of all those OTHER THINGS I would like to invite you to let the three readings today open what our opening prayer commits us to doing as we prepare for Christmas. Mark, our Gospel for this coming year, shows this with a directness that is breathtaking. He has something to tell the world and it is for him the greatest thing he can say and he is eager and anxious and joyful and insistent: This is the beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God! Try to hear that as if it is the first time someone said that to you! Can anything be more compelling in the history of the world! Anything more important? Anything more worthwhile?
There is an energy and an eagerness in this first proclamation as we meet John the Baptist the River Jordan beyond Bethany where the reed bushes hid the honey John lived on and the curious were wondering what this strange baptizer was all about. Then we see Jesus walking across the desert toward John who recognizes what the others cannot see: The one who comes after, the stronger one, the man who baptizes not with water but with the Holy Spirit!
And the voice of God from the clouds, speaking not to prophets like Isaiah but directly to one who is His Son, the One in whom the Father is well pleased! This is new! This is different! This is the start of something radical, a world changer, a life changer. Should anyone want to let an earthly undertaking hinder us who set out to meet your son, O God?
My friends, that sense of eager, joyful discovery of who Jesus is and what he has made us to be lies at the heart of Markís Gospel because it was the very exact description of the Church in her earliest days whether in Jerusalem or Jordan or Antioch or Greece or Rome.
Peter today speaks to us with the same directness. It is one that todayís Peter, Pope Francis, uses to remind us of who we are and what is expected of us. Peter asks us to take care to be what persons you ought to be, conducting yourselves in holiness, waiting for and hastening the day of God. Todayís Peter, Francis cited Isaiah and told us to take the good news of Mark and with great tenderness and joy use it to console and comfort Godís people, to be messengers of Godís consolation. He adds, Today we need people who are witnesses of the mercy and tenderness of the Lord who cares for the weak and those who have lost trust. Light up in their lives the flame of hope. So many persons with so many difficult situations need your consoling witness. Be joyful and bring consolation to others!
You and I here in St. Agnes know that. We do our best to be faithful to that. But I hope today you might let the beauty of this life changing plan of God who sends his Son give new excitement, new joy, new life to you in this Advent season and that you might redouble your commitment to bearers of the message to others in your families, in your neighborhoods and parish and beyond.
And to you who are watching us thanks to Telecare, I send the same message: Be joyful in the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Recognize the dignity you have received by being baptized into his death and resurrection. Rejoice in the hope that the birth of Jesus offers and the life that he now shares with us. This is especially true of you who are homebound or in nursing homes or in hospitals. You may be carrying some burdens of your own, some suffering that you accept with trust that God loves you and embraces you.
And also to you who may have turned on the TV and by accident or choice ended up watching this Mass. If you feel indifferent, lonely, afraid, tired of life but afraid of God, Christ and His Church, take a deep breath, let this simple message enter your lives: The Lord came into the world to save us all. That means you. He was baptized to show that he understand us humans in all our strengths and weaknesses. But he loves you, desires you and wants you to experience the good news that is offered to us all here in His Church, here at the Holy Eucharist, the greatest gift of love the world has ever known. If you heed his word, not mine, then come back to join us in this fellowship of a community of communion. Know again the joy of believing in the one Savior of the world. Share with us the Good News of Jesus Christ. Hear God telling you that Jesus is His Son in whom he is well pleased. And see him coming toward you as he did John the Baptist to offer you life and life in abundance. Our opening prayer is for you as well as for us all: Lord, may no earthly undertaking hinder those who set out in haste to meet your Son!