December 13, 2009


What should we do? – Luke 3: 12

There it is, a question that few of us escape in our lifetime. It may be a minor matter, or something very important. Whom can we turn to? Who will understand? Where can I find an answer? Is there an answer? Mary was not beyond such dilemmas: How do I respond to such a strange vision? There was Joseph’s dilemma: Should I marry her or not? Even after her “yes” to the angel, Mary felt it necessary to consult her older cousin Elizabeth. Joseph had to trust his dream.

In today’s Gospel, a variety of people had come to John the Baptist. Possibly, they were at a spiritual crossroads. Maybe they had come to a realization that the status quo wasn’t working, that something had to give. So they asked him that question, with trepidation no doubt, because they knew that any answer John gave would cost them something. A change of heart, repentance, an alteration of lifestyle would be demanded. Were they ready for that? Could they pay the price?

Dorothy Day could. An atheist & activist, she was living with her common-law husband, a man named Forster, on Staten Island , & she was pregnant. As she began to reflect on her life & what she wanted for her child, she suddenly began to pray. She read the 15th century spiritual classic The Imitation of Christ & gradually came to desire to baptize the baby Catholic. A nun who ran a home for unwed mothers nearby proved to be her John the Baptist. She asked, “How can you have your baby baptized Catholic & not be one yourself?” Now Dorothy was at a crossroad.

She decided to become a Catholic, knowing that it would cost her dearly. Her friends abandoned her, & it cost her Forster, whom she loved very much. He was an anarchist with no interest whatsoever in organized religion. The cost was high but she became an authentic, beautiful person who dedicated her life to the poor.

Most of us are not that dramatic. We’re more in line with those ordinary folk who came to John the Baptist. He didn’t offer elaborate programs as an answer. He said in effect, take it one day at a time & start with the simple things. Pick a value, one real value we want to adopt. Practice it & give it time to catch on.

There is the story of an old Indian sharing his wisdom with his grandson. He said, “We have two wolves inside us who struggle with each other. One is the wolf of peace, love & kindness. The other is the wolf of fear, greed & hatred.” “Which one will win, grandfather,” asked the boy. “Whichever one we feed,” replied the old man. So it is with us. What must we do to become authentic, to live the life God has called us to live? The answer will cost us something, but it will be worth it. AMEN!