Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sandals at Christmas-time

As stylish as those sandals are, if you receive them a s a Christmas gift, then you will have to wait a few months to start showing them off.  It's just too cold outside.  So why do I bring them up?  Because they captured my attention in this morning's Gospel reading.  John the Baptist, when asked if he was the expected Messiah, responded, "I baptize you with water; but He Who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of Whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire" (Lk.3:16).

Listen to the way John speaks of Jesus, the esteem in which He holds the Lord.  It's so different from the stance many of us take toward God - the "me and my main man, Jesus" mentality.  But John is 100%, absolutely, completely and totally right!  It's the only stance we can assume before Jesus, Who is "the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible ... He is before all things and in Him all things hold together ... For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell"! (Col.1:15-19)  When the Baptist later encountered Jesus, Who was seeking baptism, we are told how "John would have prevented Him, saying, 'I need to be baptized by You!'" (Mt.3:14).

But the gospels give us another scene involving sandals and baptism.  It comes during the Last Supper when Jesus took it upon Himself to remove the sandals from the Apostles' feet and begin to wash them.  Peter didn't want to see Jesus performing the job of a servant, saying "You shall never wash my feet;" and Jesus answered, "If I do not wash you, you have no part in me."  After that all Peter could say was "Lord, then not my feet only but also my hands and head!" (Jn.13:8-11).  It's a beautiful allusion to the Sacrament of Baptism where Jesus not only washes away all of our sins, but brings us into His own relationship with the Father!  (See 2 Pet. 2:14, Jn.1:13).  In the Eucharist He feeds us His own Flesh and Blood, and in Confirmation makes us participate in His anointing with the gifts of the Spirit (Is.11:2-3)! He becomes our divine Lover, the Groom of our souls (Eph.5:25-26, 32).

This isn't meant to make us so "familiar" with Jesus that ever cease kneeling in awe before Him, and praying, "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me, a sinner!"  Our nearness to Him increases our awe!
Who are we that God would love us enough to take on all the misery of the human condition? To put on sandals and trod the dusty roads of Palestine?  Who am I that the Creator of the Universe, Who stands above space and time, would want to dwell in my soul?  Who am I that He would die upon a Cross to save?  I am no one ... and yet I have been made a son in the Son.  In the mind of God I am one - and you are one - worth dying for.  Oh the Love and Mercy of God!  Listen to St. Paul, "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Phil.2:12-13).

My Advent prayer this morning?  It comes from the Mass, "Come and save us O Savior of the world."

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