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In tonight’s gospel Matthew portrays Jesus reimagining the ancient hope of Israel.  What was once a hope based on “God will right all wrongs” has become a hope based on humans becoming more God-like in taking on the compassionate heart of God.  God is still the initiator.  But the human heart becomes the focus.

Who Is This Man Jesus?

John the Baptist wants to know if Jesus is “the One.”  The answer for Matthew is to contemplate Jesus’ merciful presence among the marginalized.  In an environment of crushing imperial oppression, we find a different way emerging in one man: liberating actions of mercy toward the “discarded” of society.  Matthew also contemplates Jesus taking on the power and self-interest of those who do the discarding.

Inviting Others to Do the Same

This is a fulfillment of ancient texts (like tonight’s first reading from Isaiah) that we have previously interpreted as God coming in on the proverbial white charger and “cleaning up Dodge.”  But the way this is done is by one man acting differently and inviting others into the same Way of living. 

A friend of mine wrote me a card saying, “Think of all the people that you have influenced for good in your life and then think of all the people who have been influenced by those people.”  That is a powerful thought.  Well, think of all the people Jesus inspired in the first century and the millions who have been inspired ever since. 

What Am I Invited Into?

It’s not a complicated message.  I am called to open myself up to the precious nature of everyone around me, especially those whom society discards.  I am called to see the false structures of domination.  They are real in the sense that some powerful people can greatly affect me; but these structures are not real in the sense that they really do not have a right to define someone and relegate her to a lower level. 

Jesus reflects on John the Baptist and asks people essentially, “What did you expect to see, signs of power?”  What you saw was someone pointing to a different way, which has nothing to do with power in the usual sense.  He was pointing to the power of love—embracing every precious person, not dominating but serving.  This is not riding in on a charger; this is allowing the God who is within you to flow to the person you are engaging with. 

The Christ, The One, Is Still Among Us Dreaming

The early Christians believed that when they gathered for this meal (the Eucharist), that this Jesus is somehow mystically present.  That he is empowering us to step up our loving, week after week.  And over the generations more and more people are inspired to love a little more, to dominate a little less, and to widen the circle of their embrace.  The image from Holy Saturday night when the light of Christ is slowly spread candle to candle until it lights the Church, was a dream that God placed in the heart of Jesus.  A dream that we believe he is still dreaming tonight in our presence.

Third Sunday of Advent
Sts. Clare & Francis Community
December 15, 2013
Homily by Frank Krebs

Photo by Diganta Talukdar on flickr.com

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