Sunday, December 17, 2023

The Doorkeeper Has Two Faces

3rd Sunday of Advent (B)

Readings: Isaiah 61: 1-2, 10-11; Luke 1: 46-50, 53-54; 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-24; John 1: 6-8, 19-28

Picture: cc John on Flickr

My dear friends, what do personal assistants and doorkeepers have in common? The answer is obvious, right? PAs often do for their bosses what doorkeepers do for buildings. They control access. Like doorkeepers, PAs have two faces. They let people in, and they keep people out. They fix appointments, and they screen calls. They can either facilitate an encounter with the boss, or prevent it. It’s helpful to keep this in mind today, when the scriptures encourage us not just to rejoice, but to rejoice in the Lord. Meaning that the joy we are being offered comes from an encounter between us and God, between our darkness and the light of the Lord.

Isn’t this what we see in the first reading? To a people living in the darkness of Exile, God sends an assistant with a joyful message. Bringing good news to the poor, healing to broken hearts, and freedom to captives. Offering the promise of an encounter with God. And it’s enough simply to accept this appointment, to believe this message, to humbly allow its consoling light to pierce the darkness of one’s heart, for it to spark joy. Joy not in one’s own achievements, but in the Lord. For as the earth makes fresh things grow… so will the Lord make… both integrity and praise spring up…

Similarly, in the gospel, John the Baptist comes as a witness to speak for the light. An assistant, sent by God to schedule a meeting with the people. To facilitate a life-giving encounter between those who live in darkness and the one true Light. Isn’t this why he cries in the wilderness? John calls everyone to enter and to face the untamed and barren areas of our hearts, our lives, our world. Those chaotic spaces where sin and selfishness, greed and deception still cast a long shadow. And where we often feel helpless and ashamed. For it is in this darkness that the Light wishes to shine, that Joy chooses to be born. Just as in the devastation of Gaza, some are still struggling to bring relief. And in our own scandal-stricken Church, there are yet those working for reform.

But the Pharisees refuse to meet John in the wilderness. They send assistants instead, who interrogate the Baptist the way a PA might screen an annoying caller. Who are you?, they insist on knowing. So that even as John works to facilitate an encounter, his opponents seek to prevent it. They do what the second reading tells us not to do. They try to suppress the Spirit. And they end up forfeiting the joy the Spirit brings.

Which may remind us of that old story of the woman walking home one night, who sees her neighbour on all fours, frantically searching for something under a streetlamp. I’ve lost my key, he says. So the woman decides to help. And after a long fruitless search, she asks where exactly he dropped his key. To which, the neighbour gestures vaguely into the dark. Back in my house, he says. Then why are you searching out here?, she asks. It’s brighter here, he replies.

Sisters and brothers, if both doorkeepers and PAs really have two faces, then what must we do to help one another turn the right one to the Lord this Advent?

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