My Dear Sisters and Brothers! What projects or tasks are you involved in right now? Christmas shopping, clearing your desk before you head off to Queensland for holidays, cleaning the house for Christmas, maybe searching for a better job or doing a course to acquire new skills. However all of us here, attending the Mass and those who have decided that they had better things to do then coming to Mass, are dealing with the same project: our life. Our participation at this Mass, however, makes us similar to the crowds who came to John the Baptist. Even if not many of us are tax collectors or soldiers, but we come here with the same question those people came to John the Baptist. The question which my little nephew is not embarrassed to ask: “What must we do?” I believe that’s why Jesus said: “Unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” That is the essence of that conversion, metanoia, John the Baptist was calling his contemporaries to, to put aside our understanding that we know everything and that we have all the skills required to complete this wonderful project we have been given by God – our life, and to ask for his Holy Spirit to help us to see what we may miss right now as we are striving to make sense of various things which happen to us or around us. That’s why I always glorify God for having given us the Church, this community of believers which has journeyed in faith for two millennia already. The journey however has nothing to do with what happens to people going on a cruise or the Ghan when they sit by the window sipping wine and savouring the best foods while they cast a glimpse on the scenery outside. The Church, this community of believers has been traveling through centuries in the midst of the societies, exposed to the dreams, hopes, joys, sorrows and failures people experience. There, in the midst of those human societies, the Church, like we do it today, asked: “What must we do?” and the Merciful Father has been sending his Holy Spirit to enable the believers to learn more and more about the limitations and the advantages of human life, how to see our life in a deeper context. That’s the wisdom which has not only been revealed by God but the wisdom which has already been lived.
However the Church, like John the Baptist, not only teaches us, not only passes onto us the divine wisdom, but the Church reminds us that Christ is coming into our lives. By the way, some years ago I saw a movie about a school in the US, it wasn’t a true story, but there was something in the message of the movie. As the neighbourhood was dangerous the school was redesigned. Every classroom had a bulletproof glass separating the teacher from the pupils. The teacher would walk a separate corridor. He or she would present the lecture speaking to the microphone regardless what was happening on the other side of the glass. However something essential was missing; a pupil needs not only words of wisdom from the teacher but the child also needs the teacher to take his or her hand to help them, for example to draw or to write letters. That’s why Christianity isn’t simply about some pure knowledge but it preaches Christ coming into our lives, that he takes our hand when we don’t know what to do any longer with our life and he supports us to continue working on this important project – our life.
To finish let me go to our second reading where St Paul tells us: “Let you tolerance be evident to everyone.” To understand this tolerance thing let put it in a context. Can you recognise this: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all”? Let me now make a slight change: “The tolerance of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” How does it sound? Not right, doesn’t it? Because we don’t want God simply to tolerate us, do we? We want God to love us and to help us to do better. That’s why in the Bible what we describe as tolerance is expressed as kindness, gentleness, compassion, graciousness. These are the qualities of someone who is interested in our life.
“What must we do?” is an important question but even more important is who we ask this question. Ultimately we come to Jesus with this question.