for Sunday, December 11, 2016
Last Sunday the Prophet Isaiah spoke about the image of the peaceable Kingdom of God. This image includes beating swords into plowshares and all creatures living peacefully with one another - including us humans. This Sunday, the Prophet Isaiah adds to that image by stating: "Those whom the Lord has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; they will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee." Although this is an image of a kingdom of this earth, it also becomes the image of the Kingdom of Heaven: saved by God alone, crowned with joy, meeting one another with joy and gladness - and finally, no sorrow or mourning.
The second reading today comes from the Letter of James and advise us all to be patient for the coming of the Kingdom of God. It is at hand - and that means that it can come at any time. It is a kingdom for which we must live now, even though it has not yet come. The best advice about how to live now in expectation of the Kingdom is this: "Do not complain, brothers and sisters, about one another, that you may not be judged." What a different world we would have if we all lived that way! This is not a call to inaction, but a call to a clear way of living. I think of the great example of Mohandas Gandhi who showed us how to live the non-violence of Jesus. Who is showing us how to live without complaint? Gandhi was certainly involved in politics and in changing our world - but by peaceful means. Who of us can change the world by not complaining about others?
Today Gospel, from the Gospel of Matthew, brings us back to John the Baptist - developing this image from where we left off last Sunday. Instead of the image of John the Baptist preaching repentance from last week, we have the image of him sending his followers to ask Jesus: are you the one? This is a question that each of us needs to ask from time to time: are you the one? We want our faith to remain full of life and also deeply personal. We never want our faith to become just one other aspect of our lives. We want to give ourselves completely to the Lord because of our knowledge of His deep and personal love for us. Are you the one?
At the end of the Gospel, Jesus makes clear to all who listen: the most important reality in life is to belong to the Kingdom of God. John the Baptist is the greatest born of women but that counts for nothing unless he also belongs to the Kingdom of God. This is a comparison of the reality of this earth with the reality of the heavenly kingdom. In the Kingdom of Heaven we are all completely in the hands of God and will not be striving to be one greater than the other. We shall be completely ourselves and completely full of the love of God - with only the desire to live in love with God and all God's creation. Amen.
Readings of the day:
Reflections are available for the following Sundays: