Homily: All Interruptions Are Invitations
Isaiah 49:1-6 Acts 13: 22-26 Luke 1: 57-66, 80
Our lives seem to be a series of things ‘messing with’ our plans. Most of our relationships are the results of being tripped up by somebody wanting into our circle, or our privacy or our personal fortresses. Sometimes they sneak in without our wanting them and sometimes they crash in to get our attention.
God throughout Salvation History has done some mighty interrupting and intruding into the lives of people — Abraham, Moses, Amos, Joseph and Mary, Elizabeth. Jesus is a mighty interruption in the lives of the Apostles as well as of the Pharisees. Whether these interruptions really become invitations depends on how much we open our doors and our eyes and hearts as well. Interruptions are invitations to the degree we allow surprises to be allowed in our well-scheduled lives. There is always more going on than is going on. There is always a knocker behind the knocking, but unless we have the patience to wait to see who’s there, this new reality will never have a chance to enter into our lives.
In some parts of the Christian world, today is known as ‘Little Christmas’. It’s the birthday of the sixth-month older cousin of Jesus. There were some who believed John to be the Christ, but the Gospels make it quite clear that his destiny instead was to be the forerunner and baptizer of the Christ.
There is nothing known or written about any friendship they enjoyed after their womb-to-womb meeting during Mary’s visitation to John’s mother, Elizabeth. John is pictured as having a light to shine toward and upon Jesus, but as the Evangelist John writes in his first chapter, “He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light.”
John grew up to be a great hulk of a man, said to have spent his time in the desert, among religious hermits and the most barren of God’s creation, wearing animal skins and subsisting upon locusts and wild honey. No wonder he was a creature who inspired awe and trepidation. He told kings what they did not want to hear, but aroused hope in those who would hear his message and ‘look for another’. In our first reading today, the prophet Isaiah speaks of a ‘servant’ of God. God seems to have called, fashioned and offered this ‘servant’ an important place in extending the glory and kingship of God.
The ‘servant’ hears that he is to open the way for ‘the light to the nations’ beyond the Israel. Salvation is going to come to all the world and this ‘servant’ is going to toil to prepare the way for the coming of that salvation. In our second Reading, the Book of Acts reviews about how God has been preparing for the light of Jesus. John himself here is saying of himself that He is not the Christ. This was a large controversy in the early days after the Resurrection.
The Gospel has to do with the birth of John, but even more, his naming. John is named by God Himself. After the naming, John grows up and is the man in waiting for God’s time to be fulfilled.
John is born to be the front-runner, the advance-publicity man for the coming on stage of Jesus. And he does his job well, even to the death.
We are the co-runners who have been radiated by His Light and extend that Light to the ends of our neighborhoods, the end of our abilities, and to the end of our time. We are ‘servants’ whom the Lord has known before we were born and in our life’s time we give birth to and prepare His Way. John was born to make known the coming of Jesus. We are born to help others remember that He lives and gives new birth and life to all.
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All this is true; we are called to be John the Baptist to others. You can’t get away from that. But I suggest that today we look instead for the ‘John the Baptist’ in our lives today.
If every John the Baptist in our life is an unwelcome visitor, then which interruptions in our lives today are an invitation, introducing us to unexpected beauty, unfathomable truth, and to God Himself. What is so interrupting your life right now that, with patience and insight, can be seen as something God-sent to distract you from your ordinary, day-to-day living, to interrupt your routine and predictability to open a space to let God in, in a deeper, more profound way than before.
John the Baptist can be an irritant, an embarrassment, a ‘pain’. But his purpose was, not to be the light, but to bear unflinching witness to the Light. Do you hear the interrupting invitations of God in your life, today? Larry Gillick S.J. & W. Metzler
‘Through the heartfelt mercies of our God, God’s sunrise will break in upon us.’ Luke 1:78