Readings: Zephaniah 3:14-18a; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:10-18
Clearly John the Baptist is such an important figure in the life and ministry of Jesus that all four evangelists introduce his story in each Gospel. Saint Luke’s Gospel, which dominates this liturgical year, and his Acts of the Apostles provide the most information about John’s teaching, his life and his relation to Jesus. In fact Luke’s Gospel begins with the announcement of John’s unexpected birth.
Today’s liturgy casts John’s demanding message in terms of rejoicing. Specifically, rejoicing because the promised coming of the Lord is near.
If earlier in Advent we learned some caution because this coming involves judgment, does today’s celebration change that message? If I’ve learned something about my life and have begun to change what needs changing, need I fear the judgment to come?
Early on in life, admitting that something was wrong with me, and being corrected was hard to take. Even so, when I trusted the person correcting me or–more importantly–the benefit to the common good, I could shame-facedly admit my error and begin to find a better way to operate. Or I may have been in a situation where I was caught red-handed and couldn’t pretend that I was unfairly treated. I came to value correction because it sets me on a better track.
I’m happy to say that after forty-one years of monastic life I still receive correction. That could mean that I’m incorrigible or it could mean I’m still approachable, that people haven’t given up on me. Even were they to have the worst motives for correcting me, they can see in me what I cannot, and I need to know that. The point I want to make is that judgment doesn’t have to be received as threatening but can better my life and how I contribute to the community.
I was struck by what Michael Cohen said to the judge this Wednesday before being sentenced to three years in jail: Your honor, this may seem hard to believe, but today is one of the most meaningful days of my life. The irony is today is the day I am getting my freedom back.
Being judged–especially by God–and rejoicing are not necessarily exclusive. Doesn’t it depend on how well I want to live?