Sir 48:1-4, 9-11; Mt 17:9a, 10-13
John the Baptist by Michael D. O’Brien
Today’s readings continue to suggest the importance of preparation. Matthew’s Gospel recalls John the Baptist who gave his life preaching the good news of Jesus and our need to repent of our sins and prepare ourselves to receive Jesus’ presence, love, and forgiveness. Sirach holds up Elijah as the great prophet who calls us to repentance, healing, and restoration.
One theme from the readings that strikes me is how communal the repentance, healing, restoration, and preparation seem to be. Even in the Psalm the refrain is “make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved” (emphasis added). Sirach sees Elijah restoring “the tribes of Jacob.” Preparing to receive Jesus involves repentance and healing.
Catholic social teaching reminds us that we are always “individuals in community,” that we are never only individuals or only communities but always both simultaneously, one inter-dependent with the other. “I am because we are, and we are because I am” teaches the African proverb.
Some questions we might consider: In what communities do I participate? Who makes me what I am? To what communities do I contribute? Take away from? I belong to Christian communities (family, local parish, national church, Catholic church) as well as secular communities (local school, city, country, world). As part of these communities, how can I help us to repent, to heal, to prepare for the love and forgiveness of Jesus? How do I and my communities encourage love/hate, peace/violence, forgiveness/blame?
Let us be mindful during this time of preparation. Let us use this Advent time to dwell upon the face of Jesus in all of the communities in which we participate, thereby contributing to their wholeness.
Loving God, you taught us to ask you to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Help each of us to prepare individually and communally with these final days of Advent 2013 to receive more profoundly your love and forgiveness. Amen.
By Ken Reed-Bouley