It is easy to find the truth; it is hard to face it, and harder still to follow it …. The only people who ever arrive at a knowledge of God are those who, when the door is opened, accept that truth and shoulder the responsibilities it brings. It requires more courage than brains to learn to know God: God is the most obvious fact of human experience, accepting him is one of the most arduous Fulton J. Sheen Lift up your Heart
John the Baptist has been preaching a baptism of repentance, a turning away from sin towards the arms of a loving God. He has been stark and uncompromising and the people to whom he has been preaching find themselves in an awkward situation. Some 2000 years later we find ourselves asking very much the same question, ‘What then shall we do?’ The world, the state, the church all seem to be in a mess. The peace which the Messiah came to bring it seems as elusive as ever, whereas the human capacity to create misery in the most dreadful ways makes us realise that we still have some considerable distance to travel. One possible answer is the need for repentance: to change our hearts and minds and to follow Christ.
Our readings this morning speak of the kingdom of God, the God who is in our midst, a mighty one who will save us; he will rejoice over us with gladness; he will quieten us by his love. In all our sadness and sin, we look forward to our yearly remembrance of our Lord’s incarnation. We prepare our hearts, our minds, and our lives, to go to Bethlehem, to see God come into the world naked, vulnerable, and homeless. We prepare to meet him as he will come again, as our saviour and our judge, daunting though this may be, in the knowledge and trust that he saves us, that by his wounds on the cross we are healed.
We are to rejoice, strange though it might seem, just like the people of Israel in captivity, since the Lord God is our strength and our song and has become our salvation. We draw living water, the water of baptism, which saves us. In the midst of our sorrow we are to place all I hope and trust in God who loves us, and who saves us.
We are to rejoice, because as S. Paul reminds the Galatians joy is a fruit of the spirit. As the people who have received the spirit in the sacrament of baptism, of confirmation, or indeed of holy order, our joy in the Lord should set our hearts on fire, with love for him and each other; we shouldn’t worry about anything, but instead we should trust in God: the God whose peace surpasses all understanding.
We are to share this joy with others, to share the good news of Jesus Christ to all people, and not just in our words but our deeds. If we share what we have, if we are generous, if we work for justice and are clothed with humility, showing our joy in mutual love, God’s kingdom will be advanced. We, here, now, know that Jesus will come and will judge us by the standard of love which he set for us to follow. Let us trust God and share that trust in prayer, that his will may be done, and that he may quieten us with his love.
The world around us is full of pain and anguish, and the only way for it to be healed is in Christ, who was bruised for our transgressions and wounded for our iniquities. He still bears those wounds as the wounds of love. As he flung out his arms on the cross, so he longs to embrace the world and fill it with his peace and love. He will not force us; he is no tyrant in the sky. It is the world which must turn to him in love and in trust, and turn away from sin. Our task is always only all things to be joyful in the Lord, and to live out our faith to help the world turn to him.
It isn’t an easy thing to do, and after 2000 years of trying we may seem as far away as when John proclaimed the coming of God’s kingdom . We can just give up, or we can try, and keep trying, no matter how many times we fail, secure in the knowledge that God loves us and forgives us, and that we are to do the same to each other. That in this and all things we may give glory to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, to whom be ascribed as is most right and just, all might, majesty, glory, dominion, and power, now and forever.