17 December 2014

Do We Truly Love Jesus?

Third Sunday of Advent
Think of the last person you fell in love with (if you’re married, I hope it’s your spouse sitting next to you!).  And, if you’re a teen, maybe it’s just the last person you had a crush on.  I bet you could talk about that person for a long time.  I bet that you would try to put into words what exactly it is that you like or love about the person.  You would try to describe your love.  And yet, you probably wouldn’t be able to exactly point to the thing that made you like or love that person.  You could probably talk for hours on end without being able to really explain your love.  And the person listening would probably be bored to tears, and never really get it, though they might pretend to be interested out of politeness.
            For me, that person is the Bride of Christ.  I don’t really want to get started about what I find so beautiful in Her, because if I get going, I might not be able to stop!  And Lord knows the bishop doesn’t need to get letters from all of you about how I preached for 2 hours and only stopped because I needed water.  But she is the perfect one for me.
            Or maybe you’re an enthusiast for the arts.  Maybe there’s just one performance or one play or musical about which you could talk for days!  Or maybe it’s a sports team, or an athlete.  We probably all have something that we love so much, and we treasure so much, that once we get going, we’re like the Energizer Bunny, and we don’t stop, no matter how much the other people around us lose interest.
            Today’s first reading is usually connected with Jesus in the Synagogue.  Jesus reads this passage and says that it is fulfilled in their hearing.  We have all heard it before.  And we’re all quite comfortable with knowing that Jesus is the one who is anointed by God, who was sent to bring glad tidings to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to captives and release to prisoners, and announce a year of favor and a day of vindication by God.  We’re probably all sold on that.  And Jesus could say that because He was (and still is) madly in love with His Bride, the Church, and wants to give Her every good thing.  He wants to clothe her with the robe of salvation, wrap Her in a mantle of justice, and adorn Her with jewels.  The whole account of Jesus, and the whole Bible, is a love story about God and His People.  It is the account of one who is so madly in love that He can never abandon Her, even when She abandons Him.
            But today’s first reading is not just about Jesus.  Hence our Gospel passage about St. John the Baptist from St. John the Evangelist’s account.  The Evangelist talks about how the Baptist testifies to the light.  The Baptist cannot stop speaking about Jesus.  He is not the Bridegroom, but He is the Bride waiting for the Lover of His soul.  And He preaches to make people ready, to help them understand why they should be so madly in love with Him.  But the Baptist’s work is only to prepare the way.  He is only a messenger, while Jesus is the Message; he the voice, while Jesus is the Word.
            Wonderful!  Very information!  Glad we now know that John the Baptist is the one who prepares for Jesus, and Jesus is the one who sets Israel free and blesses her!  But that’s only half the story.  “And now,” to quote Paul Harvey, “the rest of the story.”
            You are anointed by God!  You are sent to bring glad tidings to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to captives and release to prisoners, and announce a year of favor and a day of vindication by our God!  The call of Jesus is your call!!  No, that’s not blasphemy, that’s sacramental theology!  When you were baptized, you became a part of Jesus’ Mystical Body.  You were joined to Jesus.  After you were baptized with water, you were anointed with Sacred Chrism, a perfumed oil, and were made to be a christ.  You were not made to be the Christ, but were made to be  a christ, an anointed one (which is what Christ means).  When your parents (if you were an infant) or you (if you were over the age of seven) said yes to being baptized, you were given that same mission as Jesus, because you were made a part of Jesus.  His life became your life.  His mission became your mission.
            “But,” you might say, “I don’t want to talk about Jesus.”  If that is the case, we have to ask ourselves if we truly love Jesus as much as we should.  When we truly love someone we cannot help but speak about that person.  “Isn’t she gorgeous!  She’s so kind!  I just want to be around her.  She brings out the best in me.  I feel happier when she’s around me.”  We can talk for hours, even if we only have a crush on a person. 
“But I don’t know how to talk about Jesus!”  When we’re truly in love, we don’t care if we have the right words; all we care about is telling someone just how great that person is.  “She does this thing with her face when she gets annoyed and she just scrunches up her face in just a way like this, but not like this because I can’t do it right, but it’s just so, I mean it makes me feel so, it’s kinda like, I don’t even know how to describe it!”  When we love someone truly, madly, deeply, we can’t hold it in, just like St. John the Baptist couldn’t hold it in.  Maybe the way we talk about Jesus won’t be in the same way as we talk about our spouse or our crush.  But let’s at least talk about Jesus in these last few days of Advent, so that we, too, can prepare the way for the Lord and make straight a path into others’ hearts to receive the love that we have received from God.