December 14, 2012 - Friday of the Second Week of Advent

Isaiah 48:17-19
Psalm 1:1-4, 6
Matthew 11:16-19

The irony of the Gospel is that people keep rejecting the kinds of prophets whom God sends, as if they were in a position to judge and reject God. It is as if a sick person in the hospital in need of emergency surgery kept rejecting doctors: too tall, too short, too skinny. They thought that John the Baptist was too austere, and Jesus was too friendly. In reality, John was exactly as austere as he should have been, and Jesus was exactly as friendly as he should have been. The people could not see the difference between, “This is the sort of prophet whom I like to have” and “This is the sort of prophet whom I need.”

I think it would be very presumptuous of me to presume that I or any other member of the clergy brings exactly the level of friendliness or fasting that we ought to. When people complain about us, they are probably often justified. But just because the person preaching is too much this and not enough that does not mean that their message is useless. Sometimes people become preoccupied with judging some clergy and rejecting others and even celebrating others. As St. Paul says, “If you judge the law, you are not a follower of the law.” If we are trying to judge whether we liked the homily, we are not listening to the homily and being moved by the presence of the Holy Spirit.

The greatest difficulty with this is that there are many false shepherds. There are wolves in sheep’s clothing who come into the Church as clergy and then preach the opposite of the Church’s teachings, or worse, commit grave sins and claim that what they are doing is good. Do we not need to be on our guard? Yes, but whether they are too fat or thin, too loud or quiet, too American or foreign, too liberal or conservative, too happy or sad, too smart or dumb, or whatever other human traits attract us or stand in the way of following them, we know that we do not worship them but Jesus Christ. If they lead us to Jesus, we can get over their faults. If they lead us away from him, it would not matter how pleasant they are. It is nice to find a preacher who is fun and easy to listen to, but it is far more important that they will lead us to Jesus.