December 14, 2014
ADVENT III (B)
A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light …. – John 1: 6
Two thousand years later, the light shines on in the darkness, a darkness that has failed to overcome it despite some impressive efforts. Here are some questions for us: Do we understand? Do we accept Him? Do we see the light, or is there still something in our life blinding us?
The report card system in our schools has its problems: the difficulty of giving an honest appraisal; it creates an attitude of looking more for good grades than for genuine knowledge; many spend too much time trying to “beat the system.” Flawed though it may be, it is all we have to let us know if we are making progress or not.
One large university requires students to enclose a self-addressed, stamped post-card with their final exam papers. One student wrote this on his card: “Blessed are the merciful.” After reading the exam, the professor wrote, “Final grade F. Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” He may not have appreciated it, but that student was fortunate enough to have been confronted with an honest evaluation. Painful as it can be, it is valuable for us to realize that we arefailing, or have failed, to measure up. More important than our educational experience is the need for a periodic evaluation of our spiritual life.
We believe that we have seen the light, but have we actually been living it? To what degree have we actually followed him? To what degree have we made His concerns ours? In 2 Thessalonians, St. Paul tells us to “remain at peace with one another, cheer the faint-hearted, support the weak, be patient toward all, see that no one returns evil to anyone, always seek one another’s good & for that matter the good of all.”
Jesus is a strange kind of king. He has no desire to be safely elevated above the reality of our everyday world. We are sadly mistaken to think we can admire Him & go on with business as usual, pausing now & then to give lip service to His beautiful but (we think) unrealistic example. Christ is a servant leader whose followers are not distant admirers, but imitators of Him. To worship Him is to serve Him. All other worship is false, & to serve Him is to respond, as He did, to the needs of our human brothers & sisters. All other service is a delusion.
To those of us who want a highly privatized religion, Jesus says that the final grade will not be based on whether or not we were moved by private spiritual experiences, important as they may be. No, the criteria has to do with food & clothing & support for those who are hurting. According to Scripture, it is blasphemous merely to say to a person in need, “Bless you, go in peace.” The blessing finds its meaning not in lip service but in real service.
On his birthday, a friend of Mark Twain sent best wishes with an envelope addressed to “Mark Twain – God knows where.” The reply came from Italy with two words: “He did.” God knows where we are, & He is grading us. The report card can be found deep within us. He knows when we are doing well & when we are not working hard enough at it. Unlike our human mentors, His grade is based upon intimate knowledge of us. We can’t beat the system, & if we want a passing grade we must be prepared to accept the divine standard for judging our progress. Do this, & whatever that “something” is that is keeping us from getting close to Him will be removed in due time. God will give us the grace to correct the situation. It is not until we see the light that we will begin to understand what Jesus is all about. AMEN!