Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11; Psalm: Luke 1:46-50, 53-54; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28.

Turning Over Stones

Here are some stones I have overturned to see what ideas are underneath. I hope you can grab hold of something, pull -- and discover that it has some homiletic roots.

I apologize for not getting 2nd Sunday of Advent Year B posted last weekend. We've had a very tragic week here in Worcester and I thank all of you who have e-mailed me with your assurance of prayers for the fallen firefighters and their families.

If you are like me, perhaps you cringed a little when you turned the pages in your lectionary to the third week of Advent, year B only to find that the gospel very closely resembles the gospel from last Sunday. In the words of Yogi Berra -- It is like deja vu all over again.

Sure, there are some differences between the gospel last week and gospel this week insofar as there is a clear push to clarify exactly who John the Baptist is. This Gospel from John does not mince words. John the Baptist is not the Christ. Why is this emphasized so? Apparently there was a faction in the world of the Evangelist that confused John the Baptist with being the Messiah, and the Evangelist wanted to draw some clear lines regarding who is who.

So, we have some differences between last week and this week; but do these differences preach? Is there an angle? Is there another stone to overturn or do we pray that everybody forgot what we said last week?

Seeing how my parishioners have pretty good memories, I have decided to head in the direction of clarifying our identity during this third season of advent. In short, just as John the Baptist is identified as a humble servant who is preparing the way, we also have to identify our roles as the season of Advent progresses. Just as John the Baptist is identified by who he is not -- moreso than who he is -- we also have to identify who we are by declaring who we are not. Do we know our role? Do we need to rekindle our dependence upon God? Do we need to decrease so that the proper place of Jesus in our lives may increase? Do we need some clarity? Do we need a reality check of who is who?

As charismatic as John must have been to attract the crowds that he did, he was still the #2 man, the supporting actor, the prep man, the stage setter. He knew his role and fulfilled it well. He did not get in the way of -- the one who is coming after me whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie -- in fact John saw his role as simply making straight His way.

In the season of Advent we also need to be like John the Baptist. We need to prepare the way of Jesus so that he may find us and those around us. It is very tempting to leave the mountains and hills and crooked paths just the way they are and settle for another typical Christmas that might be devoid of any real presence of Jesus. We may move ourselves or our social gatherings into the #1 position -- forgetting what our role is.

The Evangelist did not shy away of making clear distinctions between Jesus and John the Baptist in the Gospel for this Sunday. We should not either.

Let us recall our identity -- our relationship to Jesus -- and make the necessary preparations in our own lives to make straight the way of the Lord.

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