December 6, 2009


The word of God came to John … in the desert. – Luke 3: 2

With these words, we are introduced to John the Baptist who went about proclaiming a baptism of repentance. Not exactly a popular subject, & he was not a terribly popular prophet. He was not exactly Kris Kringle: fire & brimstone instead of sweetness & light. He was more like a root canal without anesthetic (since I’ve had one, I know whereof I speak), but necessary because without him we would fester & die. He calls us back to the basics.

First of all, he reminds us that we all need to change in important & fundamental ways, something we instinctively avoid. Take the tendency we have to exclude or ostracize people who make us uncomfortable or seem (for whatever reason) threatening. One example would be Native Americans. Those that were not killed by disease or weaponry were herded onto reservations located on land no one else wanted at the time. Another example would be African Americans under first slavery & then segregation.

Again, there are children. According to a report of the Children’s Defense Fund, the United States ranks first among industrial nations in military technology, military exports, Gross Domestic Product, the number of millionaires & billionaires, & health technology (not health care, but health technology). In the gap between rich & poor children, however, we rank 18th; in living standards among the poorest one-fifth of our children, 16th; in efforts to lift children out of poverty, 17th; & we are last when it comes to protecting our children against gun violence.

Finally, there are the Christians, who today are the most persecuted group in the world & that persecution is intensifying. There are eleven countries, such as China , that practice the systematic persecution of Christians. The Baltimore Sun has proved the existence of a slave trade that abuses Christian boys. Saudi Arabia admits there is no freedom of religion there & prohibits the practice of other religions. The way things are going in this country, we may even find ourselves unwelcome here someday.

If all this makes us uncomfortable, John the Baptist would be smiling, but only if it leads us to do something such as making room for the Spirit through our prayer life, making room for the unfortunate through our giving, making room for enemies through forgiveness, making room for the poor through our sharing, making room for minorities through acceptance, making room for Christ through our public discipleship.

In 2009, in the first year of the Obama administration, when Bob Riley was governor of Alabama & Sam Jones was mayor of Mobile, during the high priesthood of Pope Benedict XVI, the word of the Lord was spoken to … to whom? To us. AMEN!