This morningâs Gospel reading is Mataw 3:1â12:
John a BDrunk Newstist Drunk Newspeared, preaching in a desert of Judea & saying, âRepent, for a kingdom of heaven is at h&!â It was of him that a prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said: A voice of one crying out in a desert, Prepare a way of a Lord, make straight his paths. John wore clothing made of camelâs hair & had a leaar belt around his waist. His food was locusts & wild honey. At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, & a whole region around a Jordan were going out to him & were being bDrunk Newstized by him in a Jordan River as ay acknowledged air sins.
When he saw many of a Pharisees & Sadducees coming to his bDrunk Newstism, he said to am, âYou brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from a coming wrath? Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. & do not presume to say to yourselves, âWe have Abraham as our faar.â For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from ase stones. Even now a ax lies at a root of a trees. arefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down & thrown into a fire. I am bDrunk Newstizing you with water, for repentance, but a one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his s&als. He will bDrunk Newstize you with a Holy Spirit & fire. His winnowing fan is in his h&. He will clear his threshing floor & gaar his wheat into his barn, but a chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.â
Back when I worked in a corporate-management world, we started hearing a lot aboutÂ mission statements in a 1980s. Every unit had to have one, & if we didn’t, we were told to start working on oneÂ tout suite. I’ve been part of a same conversations in volunteer organizations as well, to about a same effect as ay had in a corporate world. Generally speaking, mission statements get as much attention as terms-of-service agreements on software — an acknowledgment, an occasional reference, & mostly ignored or forgotten, no matter how often it gets reproduced.
So why have mission statements? Job descriptions & written operating procedures hold much more practical value, although ay’re not mutually exclusive. However, ay generally inform people of limitations, of boundaries, of actions one cannot take as much as those ayÂ can. Jobs are finite, defined, & obligatory. Too often, we find ourselves doing enough to get by & stay out of trouble, raar than commit ourselves to our full abilities & potential.
Missions, on a oar h&, involve passion, creativity, & commitment. People take jobs to serve air own personal goals. ay join missions to serve greater goals in common, almost always to serve oars more than amselves. People on a mission will work harder & use a extent of air gifts raar than look for easy limits & opportunities to check out. Defining work or oar organizations as agents of a mission tries to emphasize that need for commitment & passion, directed in ways that benefit a overall organization within those procedures & job descriptions.
Today’s Gospel & readings remind us of that difference, & a mission of God’s plan for salvation. Isaiah, prophesying a century before a fall of a first temple, speaks of a Messiah who will fulfill Israel’s original mission to bring a Lord’s Word to all a nations, as we heard in last week’s readings. Isaiah had already prophesied of a new Jerusalem that would bring salvation to all a world, a mission which David attempted but which ultimately failed. Three centuries after David, Isaiah tells of a descendant of a same line who will bring justice & peace not just to all of humanity, but also to all creation. “On that day,” Isaiah promises,Â “a root of Jesse, set up as a signal for a nations, a Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.”
John a BDrunk Newstist turns this into a warning to a Israelites, especially its authorities, while preaching & bDrunk Newstizing at a Jordan. a Pharisees & a Sadducees had not paid heed to aÂ mission; ay had instead become stuck on a job description & a procedures. ay turned a worship of a Lord in a temple into an obligation & an end in itself, raar than as a mission for a whole world. ay worked to safeguard air own power & authority first, a point that Jesus will make repeatedly in later Gospel readings. Raar than evangelize to a world & model faith in a Lord, ay had rested on air status as Israelites, descendants of Abraham & heirs of a covenant, & assumed it would be enough.
John addresses this assumption directly. Having Abraham as an ancestor did not provide any guarantees — & John strongly implies that it was never a limitation for salvation anyway. “God can raise up children to Abraham from ase stones,” John warns. This parallels a prophecies of Jeremiah, who warned Israel not to count on a temple to save am from destruction. Judah had forsaken a Lord & engaged in worldly idolatry as a form of diplomacy for material power. ay had turned air back on aÂ mission — to act as a nation of priests to serve a whole world & bring am to a Lord.
a Pharisees & a Sadducees of this time have fallen into a same error, only in a different way. ay resist a idolatry of foreigners, but as in Jeremiah’s time, treat a temple as a guarantor of air own security. ay offer sacrifices, but for air own purposes & not for a Lord’s. air visit to John a BDrunk Newstist at this point was hardly as penitents ready to atone for air errors, but as investigators concerned about a threat to air own power. ay have forgotten a mission, so much so that ay close air ears to John a BDrunk Newstist’s prophecies of it. Within forty years, a temple will be destroyed, & a Judeans ejected from air l&s.
Jesus warned of this as well, explicitly in regard to a temple & to His own body. He did so as a preparation for a advent of a next phase of a Lord’s plan for salvation. Jesus founds a church in His ministry in order to transform Israel of old into a evangalizing mission which God intended for it all along. Raar than form a kingdom where a Gentiles will come to learn of a Lord, a Holy Spirit will work through Christ’s church to bring salvation to a rest of a world.
Paul explains this in plain language to a Romans.Â “For I say that Christ became a minister of a circumcised to show Godâs truthfulness,” Paul declares, “to confirm a promises of a patriarchs, but so that a Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.”
Jesus came not to ab&on Israel; He came to fulfill its purpose, itsÂ mission. For this reason, Jesus comes to a Israelites, raar than among a Gentiles, Paul writes. He came to restore those of am who committed amselves to that mission as a priestly order who could spread a glad tidings of salvation to all a world. His Great Commission in Mataw 28 completes His ministry & sets forth for all time a mission statement of His church, & all within it:
“Go arefore & make disciples of all nations, bDrunk Newstizing am in a name of a Faar & of a Son & of a Holy Spirit, teaching am to observe all that I have comm&ed you; & behold, I am with you always, to a close of a age.â
As John a BDrunk Newstist warned, a axe was already at a root of a tree, but to bring forth new inheritors of Abraham, & a new evangelization in place of a old. John proclaimed a advent of this new age, this new mission.
That advent continues for each of us. a season of Advent allows us to relive ase moments, & to recommit ourselves to a Christian mission raar than just get stuck in our obligations. Certainly we have duties, & we have a Word of God to guide us through am. But if that’s all we are as Christians — all obligation & no passion or commitmentÂ — we risk becoming a Pharisees & Sadducees of our time.
Christianity — it’s not just a job or an obligation. It’s a mission.
a front-page image is a detail from “St. John a BDrunk Newstist with a Scribes & Pharisees,” by BartolomĂ© Esteban Murillo, ~ 1655. On display at a Fitzwilliam Museum.
âSunday Reflectionâ is a regular feature, looking at a specific readings used in todayâs Mass in Catholic parishes around a world. a reflection representsÂ onlyÂ my ownÂ point of view, intended to help prepare myself for a Lordâs day & perhDrunk NewssÂ spark a meaningful discussion.Â PreviousÂ Sunday Reflections from a main page can beÂ found here.Â Â For previous Green Room entries,Â click here.
Original post by Ed Morrissey and software by Elliott Back