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Friday, Second Week of Advent

December 14, 2007

Blessed St. John of the Cross’ Day! (look for his story in the “saints of Advent” category)

Isaiah 48:17-19 (if we learn from God, we will prosper)
Psalm 1:1-6 “Those who follow You, Lord, will have the light of life”
+ Matthew 11:16-19 (some people won’t follow anybody)

The only way to prosper is to take God’s teachings to heart and put them into practise. You’d think that would be self-evident. God designed and created us, down to the last quirk of our personality, the slightest alteration of our genetic code. He knows us, knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows what we need, how we were designed to function. He knows what will make us sick, physically and spiritually. He knows what kills us.

And He loves us; fiercely, tenderly, intimately, sacrificially. Everything He does is for our benefit, for our growth, prosperity, blessing and protection. Everything He does for us is at His own cost.

This is our Teacher. This is His lesson.

He’s much like any good teacher, pouring Himself out day after day for the welfare of His students, except that God never makes mistakes or misjudges, never has a “bad day”.

And, true to form, we respond to God much the way students respond to their teachers. It never occurs to us that His lessons are for our benefit. We haven’t the faintest idea how much He cares about us, how much He sacrifices for us. We think of our Teacher as a “meanie” Who’s “out to get us” and make our lives difficult. We play truant or come in tardy. We nap through class or distract ourselves by chatting with our neighbors, playing games on our calculator, daydreaming, doodling, etc. We put off doing our homework and complain that there’s too much of it. We panic when tests and quizzes come, protesting, “I’ve never seen this stuff before!” Well, no. But who’s fault is that? We weren’t paying attention when it was presented. We complain about the teacher’s style. He’s too dull…or too whimsical.

Well, step into the teacher’s lounge. God has some complaining of His own to do. “What comparison can I use to describe this breed? They are like children squatting in the town squares, calling to their playmates: ‘We piped you a tune but you did not dance! We sang you a dirge but you did not wail’ In other words, John appeared neither eating nor drinking, and people say, ‘He is mad!’ The Son of Man appeared eating and drinking, and they say, ‘This one is a glutton and a drunkard, a lover of tax collectors and those outside the law!’” (Matthew 11:16-19).

God has tried everything. He’s blessed us with good times so we’d learn to rejoice and praise Him. Instead we felt like we didn’t need him. We’re doing just fine on our own, thank you. He’s allowed times of sorrow and distress to open our eyes to the deeper realities of life, to highlight our need for Him, but we turned in on ourselves and fell into despair instead. He has promised, threatened, coaxed, pleaded, rewarded and punished. He has modeled a perfect human life. He has written down His commandments, told teaching stories, provided visual aids and hands-on training, set His Truth to music. He loved us unto death, then loved us in rising, in ascending to Heaven and in remaining Present in the Tabernacle until the end of time.

But still He cries out, “What can I do with you, Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah? Your piety is like a morning cloud, like the dew that early passes away” (Hosea 6:4).

Out Teacher’s footsteps are sounding in the hallway. He is very near. Will we give Him the welcome He deserves for all His care and sacrifice for us? Will we make Him weep for joy by giving Him the gift of finally taking His lessons to heart–for our own good?

For today’s treasure hunt, let’s look at the gift a poor child made to Jesus one sad Christmas. Legend has it that a little Mexican girl stood weeping outside a church where the nativity scene was on display. She wanted so much to go in, so much to show her love for the newborn King, but she had no gift for Him. Suddenly a figure appeared, pointing to some nearby weeds and encouraging her to pick them for her gift. When she did so and presented them before the crib, the leaves flushed crimson, becoming beautiful flowers. This is the story of the poinsettia, which the people of Mexico still call the “flower of the holy night”. The poinsettia is the color of love, of our love for God and His Love for us. When we feel we have nothing to give our Teacher, may the poinsettia remind us that we can even bring Him our weeds, seasoned with love. He will make them beautiful.

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