by Sister Dorene King
Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11
Who would believe that amidst all the authorities of the age an unorthodox, strangely dressed man abiding in the wilderness would be chosen to receive the Word? Not just any Word, but the Word of God came to him.
At first glance, this choice seems rather ridiculous. Wouldn’t the Word have had better public attention coming from known authorities? After all, those authorities already had the attention of the public sector and could issue proclamations which could be widely disseminated.
Yet, as we know, God intervenes in human history in the most confounding and unpredictable ways. Perhaps, that is why God chose John – that camel-haired, locust-eating fellow – to be the recipient of God’s Word.
John was not distracted by formality and power. He was not one of the authorities and so he was open and free to receive God’s Word. He had nothing to lose by proclaiming the good news that “All shall see the salvation of God.” Yet, if John had known that later he would lose his head, he might not have been so receptive to God’s Word.
Perhaps we can relate to John. Sometime along our life journey God’s Word came to us in such a way that we were impelled to seek a different kind of path. How did we end up here? It’s a mystery. It’s not just a coincidence. God’s Word came to each one of us and now together we are compelled to share and show the Good News. Hopefully, we have the courage to tear down the walls that attempt to isolate us from one another. If God’s Word is hindered by an overemphasis on tradition and practice, we may need to counter with acts of justice and compassion. This does not mean that we need a radical shift in appearance, such as camel-hair wear, but a continual “different kind of presence” in all areas of our lives.
John could have ignored the Word of God and stayed comfortable in an out-of-the-limelight life. Yet, it seems early on he knew that he would point beyond himself to God’s presence among us. Even in the womb of his mother, Elizabeth, God’s Word came to John and he responded with a dance of joy.
The dance of joy, deep inside John, shown outwardly and perhaps that is why many came to the wilderness to see him. Some, maybe, heard of his distinct clothing and so came expecting nothing but a circus-type oddity. It is helpful to reflect on what draws people to come to St. Scholastica Monastery. The Word of God is present via The Saint John’s Bible and our Liturgy of the Hours. Yet, I suspect what impels people to come and then to come again and again are the moments they experience joy alive among us.
Apparently, that joy is what St. Paul experienced regarding the Philippians. In our second reading for this Second Sunday of Advent we hear: “I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the Gospel from the first day until now.” Paul’s expression of joy welled up in him as he reflected upon the connection, the mutual sharing in the Gospel.
Our relationship with one another is crucial. The more we share the gift of joy, the more the Word of God is alive among us. The more the Word of God is alive among us, the more will be drawn to be present with us. The more others will be drawn to be present with us, the more likely the Word of God will nudge others to join us.
If God’s Word can come to an unorthodox, strangely dressed man in the wilderness, certainly God’s Word can continue to come and guide us on our uncharted, wilderness, wandering path. As St. Paul said to the Philippians: “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. … This is my prayer that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you determine what is best.”
May we be open and receptive to God’s Word guiding us forward on the path of joy and hope.