Isaiah 35:1-6, 10
Psalm 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10
Sometimes we brag about our family, especially if they’ve done something good and we are proud of them. Jesus was proud of His cousin John the Baptist. “Among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist.”
That’s the same as saying, “My cousin is the greatest man who ever lived and I love him.” John was the last of the Old Covenant prophets. Although he prepared the way for Jesus, John did not have the full picture of the Kingdom. John preached a baptism of repentance, while Jesus preached forgiveness, unconditional love. Jesus and John had a mutual admiration for each other, even before they were born. However, as great as John was, “the least in the kingdom of heaven was greater than he.” The reason is that John, along with everyone else, was stuck in the old ways and believed in the system of “rewards and punishments”. Our Lord, on the other hand, spoke of a new order where prostitutes, tax collectors and sinners were going to lead the way to heaven. Jesus turned the world upside down with His revolutionary way of thinking. He associated with the “wrong crowd” all the time. Therefore, people talked about how they were going to kill Him. The new way of thinking was dangerous to those who had gotten comfortable in positions of authority. Powerful leaders had no patience for a man who said that we are all children of God—all equal in the eyes of God. The priests, scribes, and pharisees had grown wealthy on the fear of people. Jesus proclaimed freedom from fear—freedom from knowing that God loves us without conditions. Like the old Western movies, there was a showdown. Truth and lies cannot mix, they are like oil and water. According to the history books Jesus died a failure hung from a cross. According to our Faith, Jesus died in order that we might live. His Sacrifice was the price for the sins of humanity.
Some folks are uneasy about receiving gifts. Many enjoy giving but do not like when others are generous to them. Guess what—we cannot outdo God in generosity. He loved us first. There’s no way we can ever pay Him back. People try all the time. Whatever we do by way of penance is for us, not for God. The Psalms address the issue when we hear, “I do not want your holocausts or sacrifices. I own all the beasts of the fields; everything belongs to me.” So, what can we give God that God does not already have? What does God want from us? Only an open heart. Only the humble can accept love without conditions.
That’s why all the prophets failed—from Abraham to King David—because they all played the “worthy/unworthy” game. Until the Blessed Mother came along, she said “yes” without saying “why me?” Mary said, “Whatever God wants, I will do.” Naturally being free of guilt helps. Probably the reason that Jesus chose a child as the perfect example for the Kingdom. A child usually has a low level of pride, no resentments, holds no grudges. That’s the stuff that gets us in trouble, not only with ourselves, but with others. A child represents the image of the least in the Kingdom. A child holds out trusting arms when Father or Mother want to pick them up. With every child comes the hope for a better world, because with each generation we are supposed to look more like Christ. Fear, prejudice, guilt—are all learned behaviors. Parents need to protect their children from the poison of negativity that saturates social media. Have seen some parents be more scrupulous about sugar intake than cell phone usage. The same evils that Jesus fought so long ago continue to plague our society. They are in disguise and perhaps more alluring, but just as real. As we draw closer to Christmas, we are called to focus on what is really important—our willingness to be loved. That is the only gift we can give the Lord that he does not already have.
John the Baptist was indeed the greatest man that ever lived. Imagine, we can be just as good or even better, if we allow the Lord to love us without conditions.