15 December 2007


Hear the Gospel that is preached to you, which heals you and gives you life in place of death. Hear it and believe it, though you cannot see it or feel it.

Be patient. Do not give up hope; do not despair; but wait upon the Lord who comes to save you. He is at hand with mercy and compassion in all His dealings with you. He has not forgotten you.

Be patient also with your neighbor. Do not complain about, criticize or condemn him (or her). But bear with your neighbor in love and with forgiveness, in the faith of Christ Jesus (the Savior of all).

Would you presume to wrest away from God or your neighbor, by force, what you can only receive as charity? You may try it, in your restlessness and littleness of faith, but you cannot do it. You are not greater than John the Baptist, and neither he nor you could escape from the prison house of sin and death, nor break your own way into the Kingdom of Heaven. For by your natural birth, the inheritance of your parents and ancestors all the way back to Adam & Eve, you are burdened and beleaguered, subject to infirmity and mortality: blind and deaf, crippled and impoverished.

Of yourself, you are a reed shaken by the wind, a leaf that is blown away by even the slightest gust. You are prone to discouragement and despair, impatient with God and man, irritable and cranky.

You have not suffered as the Prophets have, nor as St. John, the holy Apostles, or Christ Himself have. You have not been sifted and sorted by Satan to the extremes that Job was. Yet, you doubt; you wonder and worry; you question and complain. You shake your fist and wring your hands and rail at the heavens that your life is not fair, that God is not fair, and that you have been abandoned.

In truth, the Lord has been faithful to all His servants. He has not abandoned them, but delivered them in mercy. He is faithful to you, also, and in His Love He will never leave you nor forsake you. He deals with you, not as you deserve, but with compassion: by and from and with His own Cross: by the way of His voluntary suffering and death, the shedding of His holy, precious blood for you.

Do not be offended by the Cross and Crucifixion of your Savior and your God, but rejoice in this!

It is by His Cross that He has opened the way into the Kingdom of Heaven. By His Cross that blind eyes are opened and deaf ears unstopped. By His Cross that the lame walk and lepers are cleansed. By His Cross that the dead are raised with Him to new life.

It is the Gospel of the Cross that is preached to you in the wilderness, in your poverty and weakness. And it is by that Gospel of the Cross — especially by your death with Christ in the waters of your Holy Baptism — that you are born again to a new and living hope in the Kingdom of God.

This way and means of the Cross is a paradox and contradiction. But do not take offense. It appears to offer nothing, to do and accomplish nothing. It promises life and health and every blessing, but you remain hungry and hurting, imprisoned or worse, whether in mind, body or other circumstance.

The preacher of the Gospel of the Cross, himself, comes to you in the frailty and weakness of mortal flesh like your own, as feeble and fallible as you are. What good are such prophets and apostles of the Cross, if they too are sick or in prison, hungry or thirsty, tired or anxious? How can they help or save you, if they cannot help or save themselves?

Yet, if St. John the Baptist exceeds all the Prophets before him, because he ushers in the Lord Jesus Christ — the Son of God in the flesh, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world — your own pastor surpasses St. John in the Word that he preaches and the gifts that he gives to you from the Cross of Christ. Here is the Kingdom of Heaven, not only at hand, but fully accomplished.

That is the Word that is preached to you — the Gospel — the forgiveness of all your sins! A Word of the Cross: a Word of contradiction, but for all of that a Word of Christ, which heals and gives life.

Now, for a little while, it may seem as though this Word does nothing, as though it were a lie. Yet, you cannot live without this Word of Christ — and by it you do in fact live forever. Go out to hear that Word, therefore, and do not seek any other sort of help or hope. If you cannot go out to hear it, then ask that it be brought to you and spoken to you, wherever you may be confined. Do not suppose that you have already heard it and know it well enough. You need to be hearing it, and to keep on hearing it, for as long as you shall live.

You need to hear this Word of Christ, for faith comes and remains only by this hearing of the Gospel. You need to hear it, also, so that you have the Word of Christ to speak to your neighbor (including your pastor). For it is by this Word of Christ that you are patient with the Lord and with your neighbor: Patient with your Lord in faith, and patient with your neighbor in love; so that, instead of grumbling and complaining, you forgive and you encourage; instead of envy and jealousy, bitterness and resentment, you have mercy and compassion (even for those who hurt you).

You live in love toward your neighbor, because you live in the true freedom of the Gospel. Your body may be imprisoned by any number of restrictions, but you are free indeed in Christ. Herod may even put you to death, or Pilate may crucify and bury you, but you shall live.

Be patient. The Lord is coming for you. He is always coming to you, always preaching His Gospel to you. Even now He is standing at the door. In His Word to you, He is with you, now and always. His preaching of the Gospel is not empty or useless. His Word is true, as He Himself is true. And He is for you. He has not forgotten you; He will not forget you. He remembers you and helps you.

Consider the outcome of His dealings with you. You already know it in His own Resurrection from the dead. Sharing His Cross, you share His Life! In this you rejoice, as He rejoices over you in love. In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

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