2nd Sunday of Advent 4.12.16 Challenge
The Bad News is… that we have to make a response to the Good News. We have to exert ourselves a little.
The Good News is that we can be set free from our sins, and begin the path to eternal life, where the weight of eternal glory far outweighs anything we suffer in this life (cf 2 Co 4,17).
So anything we suffer is more than worth it, in the long run. In any case we do not mind a little difficulty. We have within us a certain desire to overcome challenges – just look at all the things people do for amusement: climb mountains, swim oceans, run long distances….
This desire for challenge must have been in those people who flocked to hear St John the Baptist in the desert; even though he was going to tell them they were sinners who needed to change their ways.
They knew the message would be a hard one, but something in them made them want to hear it. Even Herod, evil as he was, liked to hear John speak (Mk 6,20).
People today go on pilgrimages, travelling far to get a taste of something beyond the normal daily routine; some contact with the divine, which will lift them to higher things.
We honour those who set a higher standard. We do not put up a statue for someone who always pampered himself. We honour those who make some kind of sacrifice for the good of others – such people as the saints.
We may not at present have the courage or the charity to imitate them, but we know we are at least attracted to what they did.
We can identify two challenges: one to uproot sin from our own lives - no easy matter, after a lifetime of pleasing ourselves!
The other is to overcome whatever obstacles we find when it comes to spreading the faith - the fact that true disciples will always be persecuted, for example.
Some things are true, but dangerous to say, like, Do not commit adultery, or Do not kill babies. This battle between truth and falsehood, light and dark, has been in every place and time.
Can we face these challenges? It is not so different from what we do in every other area of life. Those with extra talent or drive will rise to higher positions – in business, in politics, in sport.
If you are the one of the best tennis players in the world you will play other people who are also the best. There is no point playing someone who is too easy to beat.
Somehow this does not translate to following Christ. People are happy to make sacrifices in other areas of life; but when it comes to the moral law they want it easy.
They clamour for the law to make things easier – even members of the Church can do this, acting very unlike John the Baptist.
They want to lower the bar, instead of training to jump higher.
God is calling us, through John the Baptist, to respond to His invitation to greatness, to rise to the occasion, to personal holiness; and to whatever follows from that.
Thus to make the Church more robust - not like those who wear soft clothes and are found in palaces (Gospel).
The real bad news would be if there were nothing better than this life. Many people think this is the case, and seek all their happiness here. We are very fortunate that it is otherwise, and grateful for it.
That makes it good news, and worth a little trouble to bring to public knowledge!