December 04, 2022
Back in 1970 I first heard about people going for confession to a Franciscan Friar in Southern Italy. It seemed he had the ability of “reading hearts,” that is, intuitively knowing if penitents were hiding something or holding back in their confession. My immediate reaction was, “I am not sure I would want to get in line for confession to this priest.” He had extraordinary insight and foresight. In 1947, when he heard the confession of a young Polish priest, Karl Wojtyla, he made the astonishing prediction that this priest would one day become pope. Indeed it came true with election of Pope John Paul II. You may know the name of this fascinating monk and mystic. He was Padre Pio!
I think of him on this 2nd Sunday of Advent as we hear about John the Baptist in the Gospel according to Matthew.
A stereotype of John the Baptist would be the caricature of a hippie type guy with a beard carrying a sign that reads, “The End is Near.” Literally, we should call John the Baptist “John the Dipper.” That is what he was doing at the Jordan River. Immersing or dipping those who came and confessed their sins. John wore clothing made of camel hair and had a leather belt around his waist. He ate locust and wild honey. Yet people from the whole region around Jerusalem were wading into the Jordan as they acknowledged their sins. John explained that it was the best way to prepare for the way of the Lord. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” But John also had the daring to question the motivation and sincerity of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Pharisees rigidly observed Mosaic Law. Sadducees were associated with the Temple. Notwithstanding their public stature, John questioned their devotion to God and their fidelity to the covenant.
John sensed that there was someone coming greater than himself. John was baptizing with water for repentance, but he acknowledged after me there will be One who will “baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.” People reading and hearing the Gospel according to Matthew, know the greater one to come is Jesus, God’s Son.
Advent is the season we get ready to celebrate the Coming of Christ: the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, his coming in glory at the end time and his coming to us here and now. We are grateful for modern day John the Baptists who prepare the way of the Lord.
On Monday and Tuesday, December 5 & 6, in the church, we will have our Advent Retreat. John Wilde will be our guest presenter. John is close to us. He is the son of Homer and Carol Wilde. For over 30 years, John has inspired people from all over Western New York with his music, faith sharing talks, retreats, and teachings on God and the Catholic Faith. John has a unique ability to weave personal stories and humor right alongside deep discussions on a variety of faith-based topics. People of all ages have enjoyed listening to John lead them in song and take them on a spiritual adventure, the discovery of God’s love for them in Jesus Christ. On Monday, the topic will be “hearing the call of our God” and on Tuesday “responding to that call.”
Folks, we don’t have to travel to the Holy Land and wade into the Jordan River. John Wilde, our John the Baptist, is coming here to our church. In a gentle manner, through song, storytelling, reflection and witness, John Wilde is “preparing the way of the Lord.”
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On the way to Jerusalem, as Jesus enters a village, standing off are 10 lepers who cry out: "Jesus, master, have pity on us." Lepers, with their visible skin afflictions, are forced to live apart and thus isolated socially and spiritually. Jews and Samaritans do not associate except when they find themselves shunned. The lepers go, as Jesus directs them, to the priests who... READ MORE
Paul is in prison and facing execution. He writes a letter to young Timothy to encourage him “to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of hands.” Paul knows Timothy. They have traveled together proclaiming the Gospel. Paul knows the faith of Timothy’s mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois. Perhaps sensing doubt and hesitation in Timoth... READ MORE
Why Abraham? In the parable of Jesus, when the poor man Lazarus dies, angels carry him to the bosom of Abraham. Abraham is recognized as the Father of the Jewish people but why not another patriarch or matriarch or perhaps Moses or King David, the shepherd King or Ester or Ruth or one of the prophets. Saint John Chrysostom, a Church Father and great preacher, asks the same... READ MORE