One can make a pretty convincing case that the world is going to hell. The government scientists recently issued a report on the climate, and it is bad. Scientists are getting more and more dramatic in their speech and frantic in their calls for reform as evidence continues to mount of faster and faster climate change. What kind of world are we leaving to the next generation?
In world politics it is a mess: Brexit fights in Britain, riots in France, right wing strongmen in the Philippines, Brazil, Hungary and Poland, endless wars in Afghanistan and in Syria, a truly tragic human disaster in Yemen. Increasing authoritarianism in Russia and China.
In our own country the government is badly divided, and the president threatens a shut down of the government. Every day is a new revelation and scandal.
The economy is shaky. A trade war with China. A stock market all over the place. Fears of recession and inflation. A frontpage article in today’s New York Times states: “For the first time in decades, every major type of investment has fared poorly, as the outlook for economic growth and corporate profits is dampened by rising trade tensions and interest rates.”
And in the Church? Cover ups by bishops, more names of credibly accused priests and bishops being released, divisions of Catholics into camps, criticism of the Pope, and people leaving the church, especially the young.
As I said, one can make a pretty convincing case that the world is going to hell.
And so how are we to react? What are we to think? What should we do? The normal reactions don’t apply. Everything is up for grabs.
“What should we do?” That is the question the people put to John the Baptist in our Gospel today. Their world was coming apart at the seams as well: an oppressed people, conquered by Rome, their own priests collaborators with the enemy, everything was not what it was supposed to be, and they too felt overwhelmed, lost, disoriented.
So, in the Gospel crowds come to John the Baptist and ask, “What should we do?” Perhaps you are wondering the same thing.
I LOVE John’s answer: “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.” In other words, take care of one another. John does not tell them something outrageous or extraordinary or wild. John was a wild and crazy guy, living in the desert, dressed in camel’s hair, and eating locusts and wild honey. You expect him to say something wild and revolutionary. But his response is very simple and pretty basic. “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.”
If you feel overwhelmed by what is going on in the world today, take a deep breath, and then listen to John the Baptist. “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.”
With caring for one another comes joy. Ask anyone who worked on the St. Vincent de Paul Christmas Basket project this past week, or anyone who helps in our Thursday Outreach program.
In our second reading St. Paul urges us: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all.” Rejoicing goes with kindness, with caring for each other.
We can care for each other because God cares for us. As we sang in the Psalm today: “God indeed is my savior, I am confident and unafraid.” Confident and unafraid. That is a wonderful witness in today’s world.
We should be confident and unafraid. God is indeed our savior.
There is a wonderful image of God in our first reading from the Prophet Zephaniah: “The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, he will sing joyfully because of you….”
That is quite an image, of God singing joyfully because of you. Have you ever been so head over heals in love that you sang joyfully because of your beloved??
Can you imagine God singing joyfully because of you? And yet the prophet tells us this is so.
Fr Rich sings beautifully. I sing loudly. But God sings joyfully because of you. Oh my!
My sisters and brothers, the readings today remind us not to let ourselves be overwhelmed, depressed and paralyzed by the many real and terrible evils in our world. We must do our part, but it is as simple and straightforward as John the Baptists’ teaching: care for each other.
That is how we will get through this. AMEN.