by Casey Brissett, Oblate of St. Benedict

Isaiah 61:1-2A, 10-11
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28

The Sunday readings taken together often confuse me, as did the readings for this Sunday, but taken separately, I found something in each that stood out.

From Isaiah, the very first line is of great comfort. “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me.” What a lovely thought to rest in! I can just feel myself relax. It seems both hopeful and joyful, painting a picture of how the world could be: bring glad tidings, heal, proclaim liberty, release prisoners – in all the types of prisons in which we find ourselves – and continues with “rejoicing heartily.” I really love the comparison between the justice and praise for all nations that God provides, to how the earth grows plants. Something for me to ponder about the nature of God.

I found myself shying away from the second reading from the first letter of Paul to the Thessalonians. Rejoice always? Pray without ceasing? Give thanks in all circumstances? What a tall order! I know that these are way beyond my abilities!

But then, “Do not quench the Spirit,” and, “May the God of peace make you perfectly holy.” Could this be saying that God can help me with this? That God will, in fact, help me? That these goals become attainable only with God? Maybe so, as Paul closes with, “The one who calls you is faithful and will accomplish it.” I am so very grateful.

Lastly, the reading from the Gospel according to John. It strikes me that John the Baptist was an amazing guy. I am so envious of his certainty. The Gospel says that he comes to testify to something, or rather someone – someone he had never met. He really puts himself on the line! And why did he do this?

He did this to share his good news – his faith in this good news. When asked who he is, he responds, “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert.” We all know what it is to cry out good news. “I got a job!” “We’re having a baby!”

And he did not go unchallenged. I imagine the conversation as it might go today: “What are your credentials? Where were you educated? How do you know this? Where did you get this information?” Yes, I’m sad to say, that would be me.

I think John was helping people get ready for the great change that was to come, pave the way, offer a glimpse. I love where John says in essence, “I’m nothing! Just wait until you get a glimpse of the next guy! Now, He is something!” He must have been so excited! I expect John the Baptist was a real risk-taker.