Friday of the Second Week in Advent

Lectionary: 185

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’ 
The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard,
a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ 
But wisdom is vindicated by her works.”

The Stranger often appears in our American stories. I am thinking of the Lone Ranger, Kung Fu, and High Plains Drifter. They come from somewhere else, straighten out our mess, and then disappear again. 

"Who was that masked man?" someone always asked at the end of the cowboy episode. The answer, as I recall, "Why, don't you know? That was the Lone Ranger." I never knew till years later that the Texas Rangers are the state police. I assumed they were all like "Strider" from the Trilogy of the Rings, who would finally be revealed as "Aragorn, the rightful king of Gondor." 

Raymond Chandler, in his essay The Simple Art of Murder, explains that the protagonist of his novels should be single with a preference for beautiful women. He is dogged and dauntless in his pursuit of the truth, even when jailed by the police, or fired by his sponsor. He might cool his heels for weeks in jail, without benefit of a call to his lawyer, and return to the quest as soon as he walks out. Having no family attachments that might compromise his integrity he cannot be cowed by criminals, police or district attorneys. It helps if he drinks heavily and chain smokes. He may be terrified occasionally, but it passes. He doesn't die because he still has more episodes to film. This was not only Philip Marlowe and Mannix; he -- and eventually she -- appeared often especially in the sixties and seventies movies and TV series. I'm sure there are many more heroic strangers like this; I don't watch enough television to name but a few. 

Of course all these characters are based loosely on the prototype, Jesus Christ. There's no need to point out the similarities. I have to admit I've been fascinated by these stories. I was especially "into" Strider; he appeared in my dreams and poetry way back then. That was before I began to address my abandonment issues. 

Today, as we approach Christmas, I remember these romantic heroes with a rueful sadness. Their authors and their admirers haven't a clue about the One who will save them. 

Jesus comes from very far away, as Saint John will insist: "because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. 

But Jesus is never a stranger. We know where he comes from. We know his mother and father, his cousin John, Aunt Elizabeth and Uncle Zechariah; and other members of the family, James, Joses, Judas, and Simon (whom Catholics insist are cousins). We don't hesitate to name three of his grandparents, Mary's parents Joachim and Ann; and Jacob, the father of Joseph. Clearly Jesus was tightly wrapped in a web of human family, and they sometimes attempted to take him back home and sit on him. 

As we study the typology of the Old Testament and meet Adam, Abel, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and many others we understand more about Jesus and his mission. He is no stranger to the Jewish people. Indeed if they knew the Prophet Jeremiah they should have recognized Jesus.

And yet he has come from afar. He is an Apostle from the Truth, an emissary of the Kingdom, and the Incarnate Word of God. Dazzled by our own convictions we can neither fathom where he came from nor where he is going. Pontius Pilate wondered, "Where do you come from?" and got no answer. It was no place he could understand. 

In today's Gospel Jesus complains about the reception his people have given to John and to him. It seems he can do nothing right, nothing to please them. They are determined to reject him, first because they know where he comes from, and then because they don't. 

"But wisdom is vindicated by her works.” In the end it comes down to a choice. I believe in Jesus as our savior. He alone is worthy of my trust, obedience, love and worship. There is none other. 

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.