Reading I Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11
Psalm (for Advent) Luke 1:46-50, 53-54
Reading II 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
Gospel John 1:6-8,19-28
Be happy all the time. And always remember to pray.
You might say, “I don’t know if I do pray, I don’t know if I pray all the time, and I am happy — but not all the time.” So the challenge for us is, as Jesus says, “But I say, ‘Be happy all the time. And pray without ceasing.’ ”
What does that mean spiritually? It doesn’t mean if things are going well I’ve had a good day. Jesus says you have to be a lover in season, and out of season. You have to be a Christian in season and out of season. You can’t pick or choose.
The question really comes for us and it is — do I hear the voice? Have I found my own voice? Do I know who I am? Can people be around me, or watch me, and see that I am always happy no matter what, and I always take time to thank God. It doesn’t mean I have to kneel in church twenty-four seven. Our sleep is a prayer, taking a shower becomes a prayer, eating becomes a prayer. Everything becomes a prayer once you have found your voice. But if you don’t have your voice, you don’t understand the message of John.
He says, “I’m a voice calling in the wilderness, in the desert. And I baptize only with water, but I have this gift and everybody is surrounding me and they all want to be baptized. It is not because I am smart, it’s not because I have money, they understand that I have that voice because I am introducing the Savior of the world to everyone.”
He told me, “I’m going to have some surgery.”
“What kind of surgery,” I asked him.
He said, “I’m not really sure. Tomorrow morning they are going to start with my toes. I don’t know if they are going to take one toe, or three toes, or all the toes. I don’t know if they are going to take my whole foot. I don’t know how far up my leg they may have to go.”
But he said, “I want God to be with me because whatever they do I am going to be all right — I just have to make the adjustment to live in a different way.”
He didn’t say, “Please anoint me because right now I am angry with God, I don’t know why this is happening to me, I don’t know if I can trust the doctors, and I don’t know what I am doing here. This is going to change my whole life, I am very upset, and I don’t see the reason to pray. I don’t know why God would do something like this to me. I am not exactly a bad person.”
God would just whisper, “Find your voice.”
Something I would ask all of you this morning: When you are about to go to bed, count your toes and then stand up on your toes. Then crawl into bed and thank God for that blessing.
You may have something else going on in your life. It may not be physical but it is something that is upsetting you.
The only way that you and I can unfasten the sandal-strap of the sandal that Jesus wears is to discover his voice within ourselves. Then we’d begin to realize that this isn’t something we anticipated but is something we will have to deal with. If I am having part of my foot removed, the rest of my body will be healthy. The question then becomes: What am I going to do with the rest of my body?
That is where Jesus comes into our life and says, “John baptized you with water and he was the voice crying out in the desert. But now I, Jesus, have come and I will baptize you with the water and the spirit, and when you have my spirit you have my voice, and when you have my voice you will be happy, and you will know to pray always.”
It is not enough for two friends to say, “Thanks for being such a good friend,” and then forget about it. It is not a wise move for a couple on their wedding day to say, “I love you,” and give each other a kiss and think that “that will do it until we get to heaven.” We don’t live that way.
The voice has to be ongoing in our lives. We need to know what creates the spirit within us. There are no two people sitting here that experiences God in the same way. God is way beyond any of us. But he just says, “Realize that if you are in tune with me, you will be happy always. If you are in tune with me, you are always going to be connected with me. And you will never take it for granted.”
So this morning as Charles Dallas is baptized, he is going to be baptized not just with water, but with water and the spirit — and this morning he is going to be given his voice. And his voice will go with him through the rest of his life. And Jesus is telling him in words that he doesn’t understand now, but he will learn from his parents and Godparents and that is — “God will always be with you, just like we are always going to be with you. You never have to doubt that.”
May you and I, as we live out this coming week, realize that the Spirit is with us and we have a voice. But we need that voice to be strong, and the only way it can be strong is through prayer. And the only way that we will pray is when we feel the Spirit. And when we feel the Spirit, God is at the center of our lives.
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Monsignor Michael Kuse is pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Quincy, Illinois.