In today’s Gospel Jesus makes a distinction between what we see in this world and what Heaven will be. John the Baptist is the greatest of the Prophets, for he prepared the way for the Lord, the Incarnate Son of God to come into the world and most pointedly, into our very hearts and lives. He was the one who prepared those who opened their hearts – to receive God. As we hear the Baptist’s words in Advent: are we prepared to receive God into our very heart and souls, or perhaps in a deeper way? Even though John the Baptist was a Great Prophet and a very important instrument of grace; Jesus tells us that Heaven will blow our minds with magnitude, splendor and greatness. By offering us a sense of how great Heaven is – Jesus shares with us the importance of our being ready for that reality; our preparation here in this world is for the eternal reality we hope for.
As a Disciple who lives out my discipleship as a priest, I am asked the question (and consider it for myself), when is enough enough? When have we/I done all we need to do? When can we be assured we are living as the kind of Christians we are called to be? The answer, when we get ourselves to heaven and we bring as many with us as we can. That may seem like a non-answer or a pious platitude that doesn’t actually say anything: but it says everything! Our encounter with God is a relationships and the very best of relationships don’t end. They require constant work, and while we can enjoy the relationship and really, we must, we don’t sit back and become complacent friends or spouses. Our relationship with God is no different and of the greatest importance. God the Son gives us all that is required and when we have completely fulfilled that: we are ready and assured of heaven! And that is a lifetime’s opus!
Our first task this Advent season is this: encounter God again. This is not to imply we haven’t been, but read and hear the Gospels with fresh ears, new eyes and an openness to what God the Holy Spirit wishes to impart. Then we must live our Christian lives in an even more committed and dedicated way. Be encouraged that by living in more committed ways, no matter what we struggle with, God is with us and we must then invite others to do the same. We cannot wait to be saints to call others to the same. We must remain sinners who seek to be saints to invite others to the same. That is what Christians must be! We are not hypocrites in this way unless we deny our sinfulness. We reconcile with God through confession and acknowledge our sins are “thorns” that remind us how in need of Jesus we really are. Regular reconciliation paves the way to live for the very best part of what a Christian does. To evangelize and to spread the Word – God loves us, calls us close to Him, wants us with Him forever in Paradise. Paradise is not here: it’s in heaven. Let us head there together.