“MUST YOU SPOIL THE PARTY?” (Mt 3:1-12): 09 December 2007 (Second Sunday of Advent)
If a poll were conducted today about saints and biblical characters, my guess is that John the Baptist would get one of the lowest approval ratings.
Let’s face it: Whenever he shows up in the gospel, as he does today, he’s usually bad news, reminding us of sins that we have committed but would rather forget. That camel-hair ensemble won’t exactly land him on a “Best Dressed” list either, not to mention his strange eating habits. In other words, the Baptist just isn’t the kind of person you’d invite to your party because he’s bound to be a party pooper.
So this Second Sunday of Advent, I’d like to turn to him and ask him a couple of questions: “Must you spoil the party? Must you talk about fire and brimstone instead of heaven and angels? Why not be charming instead of resorting to all those scare tactics?”
Actually, he hasn’t always been like this. The first time we meet him, he’s–of all things!–dancing! Hearing the sound of Mary’s voice and recognizing the presence of the One, he leaps in his mother’s womb and for all we know, does a mean boogie as the Mother of the Lord sings her Magnificat. When he is born, his name is all his father Zechariah needs to speak and sing again. So what happened? When did he turn into such a party pooper?
Maybe it happened in the desert, that lonely, scary place where God sometimes chooses to meet us–a place as much out there as in ourselves. There, deep in his own desert, John the Baptist must have once again heard the music that once made him dance, a music so enchanting that he longed so much to share it with the rest of the world. But soon he must have realized, much to his dismay, that the world couldn’t hear the music because its sins have rendered it–all of us–deaf. Instead of dancing to God’s song, we’ve ended up listening to noise that we’ve been mistaking for music. We think we’re having a ball, but we’re only limping to noise.
So you see, if John the Baptist is such a party pooper, I think it’s only because he knows we’re missing out on the real party. After all, his job is to “prepare the way of the Lord and make straight his paths.” He took his job so seriously, in fact, that he ended up having his head served on a plate at a dance that he till the end refused to join.
So if we want to be ready for the Lord, we’d better check if we’ve been attending the right party or dancing to the wrong music. Otherwise, why not invite John the Baptist into our life this Advent to listen to what he has to say? Maybe we will hear a little of the music he heard and–who knows?–one day dance and party with the Baptist.
(image: details from Caravaggio’s “St. John the Baptist in the Wilderness”)