living the gospel
2nd Sunday of Advent – Year B
Deacon Tom Vert
Preached: Dec 10, 2017
“What sort of persons ought you to be?”
St. Peter asks this question of the early Christians in the 2nd reading today and he could be asking the exact same thing of us.
The early Christians were starting to get worried that Christ had not yet come back as He had promised and therefore they were starting to fall away from the faith.
They were starting to listen to false teachers and prophets and not caring so much about how they lived their daily lives.
St. Peter was encouraging them to be genuine, authentic Christians.
This theme of being genuine and authentic is found in the readings today especially in the gospel story of St. John the Baptist.
We hear that John was in the wilderness, clothed with camel’s hair, a leather belt around his waist and he ate locusts and wild honey. He was wearing the clothes of an Old Testament prophet and eating the same foods that they would have eaten.
Now we are not being told this in order for us to replicate this and head out to Mohave, Arabian or Sahara deserts ourselves!
But instead, the key is for us to see that people saw John as a true prophet and see this authenticity as a key strength in witnessing to the gospel.
Now we should note that it is clear that “professional prophets” existed throughout much of Israel’s history and that they were always preaching the opposite of the true prophets that God had sent.
We can remember the story of the prophet Elijah who had a “competition” (so to speak) with the local false prophets and had God send lightning down to prove who the true prophet was.
Jesus himself warned against following false prophets or preachers saying “beware of the false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves!”
For these false prophets were motivated by greed, they were arrogant and lived immoral lives – they were in it for themselves. They preached in order to increase the focus on themselves and not to direct others towards God.
So when John the Baptist comes preaching in the desert, living a life of poverty, preaching a message focused on Christ and not himself – the people respond.
The responded by yearning for the truth and walking 2-3 days into the desert to find John. They wanted to hear his message of a voice crying out in the wilderness, and to change their lives by a conversion of heart with the symbolic baptism in the river Jordan.
John lived an authentic and genuine life, and he could have been praised. He even had follower’s himself, but he guided them instead towards the true Son of God – there is one coming after me – he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit – behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!
This yearning for something genuine, something sincere and authentic continues today doesn’t it?
It can be the simple things like a restaurant that serves authentic Italian meatballs, or Mexican tortillas – we can tell the difference to restaurant chain food.
It can be in things we buy; I remember we were amazed to find in Rome only one store that sold authentic Italian made scarves made in Italy. All the other hundreds of vendors sold Italian made scarves made in China.
Or vacations. I know that one of the things we enjoy about going on Habitat for Humanity trips is living in the same neighborhoods as the local people, eating the same foods, drinking the same coffee, playing soccer with the children and just enjoying a laugh at our poor Spanish!
Going to a resort on a beach were you don’t even meet the local people just doesn’t feel the same.
This search for the authentic is something I believe tugs at the heart of each of us – something we long for.
So when St. Peter asks us what sort of people we ought to be – he is speaking of this authenticity.
He tells us to “conduct ourselves in holiness and devotion” and to “be eager to be found without spot of blemish before him” and to “be at peace”.
He asks us to be witnesses to the gospel of Christ. To be evangelizers of the Good News by how we live our daily lives.
2000 years later, Pope Francis was flying home last week from Southeast Asia on his latest trip and as is his tradition he holds an in flight press conference.
One of the journalists asked him about evangelizing and converting people to the Christian faith. And his answer was interesting because he said almost the same thing St. Peter did 2000 years ago.
He said: “What is evangelization like? Living the Gospel and bearing witness to how one lives the Gospel: the last thing you have to do is say something. You live your Gospel and if they ask you why you do this, you can explain why you do it. And let the Holy Spirit activate them. This is the strength and the meekness of the Holy Spirit in the conversion.”
So the question for us today is how are we to be authentic? How are we to be genuine so our lives point to Christ who is coming, just like John the Baptist?
We live the gospel by:
- Being the Good Samaritan and helping the strangers and people we don’t know that come into our lives
- By praying for those that persecute us by their actions or words that hurt us; so that God may bring peace
- By visiting the sick even though we are so very tight for time in this modern world
- By listening to people who need a sympathetic ear
- By forgiving those who hurt us 7 x 70 times
- By not judging people who do things different from us
- By doing the right thing even when no one is watching
- By building bridges in life and not walls in order to sow peace for those around us
We live the gospel by living as Christ modeled for us in his lifetime
So as we go through Advent and celebrate Christmas – look at your nativity scenes with Mary, Joseph and Jesus – and ask yourself this question:
“What sort of persons ought we to be?”