Dear Parishioners,
John the Baptist was a wild man. It is important to remember this to answer the question that Jesus poses in today’s gospel. Jesus asks the crowds who went out to see John, “What did you go out into the desert to see?” They did not go out to see a reed swayed by the wind. The desert was filled with such reeds. They were commonplace. They did not go out to see someone dressed in fine garments. That is the way someone who was announcing a royal Messiah would be expected to dress. John dressed in camel hair, with a leather belt around his waist. People went out into the desert to see John because John was unexpected, extraordinary, and peculiar. John was indeed a sign pointing to Jesus. But John was not the common yellow diamond with a black arrow pointing, “Straight ahead.” John was a movable billboard with blinking lights, whistles, and illuminated letters that spelled out, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” People went out into the desert to see John because John was unanticipated and somewhat bizarre.

I think the example of John the Baptist is meant to remind us that if we are going to point to Jesus, we must be willing to do so in a wild and surprising way. We cannot fade back into our culture. Like John, we must seize the attention of others in a way that is powerful and unexpected. Now, there are many ways to do this. But the way that I suggest today is with an attitude of joy. In our culture, joy has the ability to shock people. In a world that is all too often characterized by worry, fear, and anger, a person of joy stands out like a flashing billboard in the desert.

You and I have reason for joy. We believe that God has made us and saved us. We believe that God has blessed us in many ways. When we look at the ways that we are blessed, we should rejoice. Today’s first reading from Isaiah says, “Those that the Lord has ransomed will return singing, crowned with everlasting joy.” I believe that we know how blessed we are, but how often do we allow the joy within us to be seen?

The holidays place extra burdens on us and often exhaust us. There is so much to do. But what if we made it our high priority to live a joyful December. What if, when we gather with our family and friends, the first thing that we say is not, “Let me take your coat,” or “Put the gifts over there.” What if we were to choose to look into the eyes of the people we love and say, “How good it is to see you. It has been much too long.”

What if we went to work not only focused on copying papers and making phone calls, but with the intention of telling a story or two of something that made us happy and thereby spread happiness to others? What if, even in difficult circumstances, in circumstances of grieving, sickness, or loss, we made it our aim to point out something beautiful or blessed between us, and thereby provide an opportunity to smile and celebrate?

If we were bearers of joy to others, would we not stand out like a prophet in the wilderness? And would we not most efficiently point to Jesus? Because I believe that after we have lifted the spirits of others and laughed with them, the people we left behind will say to themselves, “I do not know what or who that person knows that I don’t know. I do not know where they find such joy. But I would really like to find out!”

Fr. Monteleone

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