Our readings today speak of a homecoming for us: returning to God. A few years ago now, there was a website that was popular called “Catholics Come Home”. It was the beginning of a sense that many Catholics have that we need to do a better job of reaching out to others who have felt alienated from God and the Church and encourage them, welcome them and embrace them when they “come home”. There has always been tension among us of how we should do that: the Church is pastoral means different things to different people. To some it means we reach out to share the truth, but accept it or don’t. To others, the truth changes relative to the needs of the person, and so the welcome becomes the most important thing. As Disciples of Christ and most recently here in the Archdiocese of Toronto, our pastoral mandate as Catholics is to “care for the gathered and reach out to the scattered”. Whether we’re part of the gathered or part of the scattered, in order to come home, invite others to come home or be at home with the Lord – requires a certain disposition on our part.
Our disposition needs always to be one governed by Jesus and His Word, lived out as one who desires to be like Him in all things. Our disposition needs to be one of care and concern, and not judgment, because what we are doing for Jesus is either helping or hindering the scattered from coming to Jesus, nothing more and nothing less.
John the Baptist’s desire to bring people to Jesus. Nothing more or less. He desires to lead everyone to a baptism of repentance, not for Himself but for Jesus. Sometimes, people like how hard-hitting John is towards the Pharisees and want to be as hard-hitting as he is with people who don’t live by the truth. Unfortunately, very few of us really understand that the scattered are not the Pharisees. Very few of us are able to see that its more likely that we might be the Pharisees than the scattered. How many of us believe ourselves to be Pharisees? It’s easy to see others in this role though. We see those people who are too traditional, too conservative in their beliefs, too liberal or progressive in their beliefs, too pious or devotional, too folksy, too one thing or another as Pharisaical.
Rarely can we imagine ourselves as part of a “brood of vipers” that we’ll hear John call out later, and maybe we aren’t. Something tells me, and I include myself here; that if we did stop and consider that we can be Pharisaical sometimes, we can be part of that brood – that maybe we wouldn’t be so quick to put up walls, obstacles, doors, hurdles for our scattered brothers and sisters to make their way through before they come home; home to our Lord Jesus Christ.
On this second Sunday of Advent, as we await the deeper entry of our Lord into our hearts, minds and souls – may we pray for a more open disposition, that we may let the Holy Spirit more deeply into our own hearts so that our friends in Christ may come home and we may be the ones who welcome them.