Saints on Lent

02-22-2015Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As we begin this Lenten season, here are some thought provoking quotes from the saints about sacred things pertaining to this holy season:

"Let each one deny himself some food, drink, or sleep, needless talking and idle jesting, and look forward to holy Easter with joy, and spiritual longing."
—St. Benedict

"Prayer is indispensible for persevering in pursuit of the good, indispensible for overcoming the trials life brings to man owing to his weakness. Prayer is strength for the weak and weakness for the strong.
—Pope Saint John Paul II

"When I was crossing into Gaza, I was asked at the checkpost whether I was carrying any weapons. I replied, Oh yes, my prayer books."
—Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

"Our heart is a garden in which wild and noxious weeds continue to grow. We must therefore have the hoe of mortification alwa ys in hand to remove this noxious growth, otherwise the garden will soon be choked with thorns and thistles."
—St. Alphonsus Liguori

"Say to your body: I would rather keep you in slavery than be myself your slave."
—St. Josemaria Escriva

"How many sins have entered into the soul through the eyes? That is why they must fast by keeping them lowered and not permitting them to look upon frivolous and unlawful objects; the ears, by depriving them of listening to vain talk which serves only to fill the mind with worldly images; the tongue, in not speaking idle words and those which savor of the world or the things of the world. We ought also to cut off useless thoughts, as well as vain memories and superfluous appetites and desires of our will. In short, we ought to hold in check all those things which keep us from loving or tending to the Sovereign Good."
—St. Francis de Sales

"Why should a sinner be ashamed to make known his sins, since they are already known and manifest to God, and to His angels, and even to the blessed in heaven? Confession delivers the soul from death. Confession opens the door to heaven. Confession brings us hope of salvation."
—St. Ambrose

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will

What Should I Do for Lent?

02-15-2015Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This week on Wednesday we begin the season of Lent. Lent is characterized by three particular penitential marks: Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving. As we prepare for this holy season, let us take a moment to reflect on these three important marks.

In her diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul, St. Maria Faustina wrote, "In whatever state the soul may be, it ought to pray. A soul pure and beautiful must pray, or else it will lose its beauty; a soul striving after purity must pray, or else it will never attain it; a soul newly converted must pray, or else it will fall again; a sinful soul, plunged in sins, must pray, or else it will never rise again." Prayer is an essential part of our discipleship with Jes us Christ. Each Lent we are given an opportunity to strengthen our prayer life. My suggestion for us this Lent is to take an hour each week in our St. Michael the Archangel Adoration Chapel. In addition to our regular Adoration hours, we will be having all night Adoration Wednesdays and Fridays during Lent. Please consider utilizing this opportunity to grow in prayer.

Fasting is often the forgotten Lenten penance. Many of us are ready to spend more time in prayer and even increase our tithing, but are terrified of giving up food. In Matthew 4:4, Jesus said, "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." The truth about our humanity is that we hunger for more than mere physical food. Fasting is a beautiful way to remind ourselves of this great truth and to increase our hunger for spiritual food. This Lent, I strongly recommend the practice of fasting. One suggestion is to eat only bread and drink only water on Fridays. This is an intense practice, but one that often bears great spiritual fruit. However, it is important that we fast for spiritual purposes, not for worldly purposes. There are some who fast during Lent "to lose weight," so that they can fit into a summer bathing suit. Such fasting loses its spiritual value because it is done for a worldly purpose. Since it is done for vanity's sake, it only further invests a person in the glory of this life, not in the glory of the life to come.

Henri Nouwen in his book A Spirituality of Fundraising, wrote, "What is our security base? God or mammon? That is what Jesus would ask. He says that we cannot put our security in God and also in money. We have to make a choice…As long as our real trust is in money, we cannot be true members of the kingdom." St. Paul in his first letter to Timothy tells us, "The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil" (1 Tim. 6:10). Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:21, "Wherever your treasure is, there will your heart be too." Almsgiving is a fantastic way for us to put our treasure in Jesus Christ and to fight against the evils of vanity, greed, and pride. It is a way for us to show that our security is in Him, not in the world. This Lent, I encourage each family to consider making an additional financial gift to one of our Catholic charitable organizations. St. Vincent de Paul is an excellent organization that would use your financial gift for serving Christ in the poor. An increased financial gift to the Diocesan Charity and Development Appeal (CDA) would also be a great way to show that your treasure is in the Gospel. These are merely a few examples of ways to grow in your relationship with Christ through almsgiving.

Whatever penitential practice you chose this Lent, my hope and prayer for all of you is that it is one that will bear great spiritual fruit in your life. Choose something that will push you beyond your comfort zone. Jesus Christ is worth the investment.

Peace in Christ, Fr. Will

The Importance of Silence

02-08-2015Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

One of the greatest struggles in our current culture is the lack of silence. Every moment of the day seems to be filled with noise. Television, radio, Ipods, cell phones, video games, computers and all sorts of forms of social media are constantly pounding our ears, keeping us from the essential human need of silence and solitude.

The day I made the decision to make it a part of my regular daily routine to get up early and spend some time with the Lord in silence and solitude was one of the greatest decisions of my life. It has provided me with the peace I need to hear the voice of the Lord calling me into a deeper relationship with Him. Often times, the greatest moments of my day come from that quiet time I have with in prayer with Jesus.

St. Alphonsus Liguori once said, "Silence is one of the principal means to attain the spirit of prayer and to fit oneself for uninterrupted dialogue with God. It is hard to find a truly pious person who talks much. But they who have the spirit of prayer love silence, which has deservedly been called a protectress of innocence, a shield against temptations, and a fruitful source of prayer. Silence promotes recollection and awakens good thoughts in the heart."

Why do we allow so much noise in our lives? More often than not it is in the silence where we are able to hear the voice of the Lord. Why does silence bother us? What does silence stir up in my heart? Am I afraid of what it stirs up? If so, why am I afraid?

Silence is an essential part of discipleship with Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself gives us an example of this in today's Gospel ( Mark 1:29 -39). Finding time for silence will change your life. Here are a couple of examples of ways to create intentional silence:

  • Stop by the St. Michael the Archangel Adoration Chapel on your way home from work and spend 5 minutes in silence in front of Jesus. No book, no rosary, just Jesus. Simply be in His presence.
  • Turn off the radio in your car for part of your drive to work each morning.
  • With your family, take 30 seconds of silent prayer before eating dinner together.

At first silence will feel weird. That's normal. Everything new feels weird at first. However, over time it will prove to be an experience of great value. Trust me when I say, you won't regret it.

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will

The Authority of Jesus Christ

02-01-2015Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In today's first reading (Deuteronomy 18:15-20), Moses ensures the Israelites that God will never leave his people uninstructed. He ensures them that there will be another prophet like him who will speak with the same authority. In today's Gospel (Mark 1:21-28), we discover this prophet to whom Moses was referring: Jesus Christ. In today's Gospel, Jesus speaks with authority that surpasses even the authority of the scribes. Jesus' authority is so significant that even demons must obey his words.

Since Jesus is the Son of God, Jesus' words are spoken with the highest authority. His words are not mere suggestions, but are, as St. Peter reminds us in John's Gospel, the words of eternal life. Jesus' teachings continue today through the voice of the Church. Jesus promised that His teaching authority would continue on through His Apostles and their successors. This is what is known as Apostolic Succession. The magisterium (or the teaching office of the Church) continues to proclaim the Gospel with the authority of Jesus Christ. The magisterium offers the people of God clarity in the face of confusion. It ensures us of God's active teaching voice today. It promises us that God will never leave us uninstructed.

The question that arises for us in light of these readings is, "Are we open to the authority of Jesus Christ in and through His Church?" An openness to the authority of Jesus Christ implies an openness to being instructed by the Apostles who were chosen to carry on His teachings. This authority is not meant to enslave us, but to free us. It is given to the Apostles by Jesus Christ so that His people might always be free from sin, which is the true source of slavery.

We are so blessed to have a centralized teaching authority in our faith that brings clarity to difficult questions. Most faiths do not have such a gift. May we always respect and cherish this gift with the obedience that Jesus Christ's authority deserves.

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will

Ordinary Time

01-25-2015Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In today's Gospel (Mark 1:14-20), Jesus calls the disciples while performing their daily duties as fishermen. Often times in life we think that the Lord wants to call us in extraordinary ways. We hear the story of Exodus and we think that God desires to give us a burning bush in order to communicate His plan for our lives. It is easy for us to forget about today's Gospel and how Jesus calls the disciples in the ordinary events of daily life.

As disciples of Christ, we must never forget that God wants to be in relationship with us at every moment: when we are with our families, during our daily commute, while we are at work, etc… If we are open to the presence of God in our daily life, we will find that He has much to say to us. The beauty of the Catholic faith is its Sacramental worldview: the view that things are more than what they seem. Each and ever y daily act can be a visible sign of God's invisible grace, if only we are willing to open our hearts to Christ.

God took the skills of fishermen and reoriented them toward apostleship. God chose twelve ordinary men in the midst of ordinary life and called them to do something extraordinary. We do not need burning bushes to understand the call of Jesus Christ. We only need to offer up the many moments of our daily lives to Him and for His service. When we live life this way, we will see with clarity the living God at work in us.

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will

What are you looking for?

01-18-2015Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Often times we feel a strong desire to pray and to strengthen our relationship with Jesus Christ, but we aren't sure where to start. I believe that today's Gospel (John 1:35-42) is a fantastic starting point. In today's Gospel, Jesus asks the two disciples following Him a very important question: "What are you looking for?" I believe Christ is asking us this same question. What are you looking for? What is it that your heart longs for that has caused you to search for discipleship with Jesus? What is it that you believe Jesus Christ can offer you that no one else can? How many of us have set our lives on "cruise-control" and have forgotten the reason why we have set out on this journey with Christ and His Church? Meditating on the question of Jesus to the disciples is a great way to stop, slow down for a moment, and refocus on Jesus.

However, it is not only Jesus who asks a question in the Gospel, it is also the disciples who ask a question. In the Gospel, the disciples ask Jesus, "Where are you staying?" This is also a beautiful question worthy of meditation. Where is Christ in my life? Do I feel as if He is absent? If absent, where might He be? Is it He who is absent, or myself? Where must I go to find Him? Or, rather, where must I go so that He can find me? Where is Jesus leading me? How does that make me feel? What is keeping me from following Him to that destination? Again, these are beautiful questions worthy of meditation.

When someone comes to me for spiritual guidance or direction, this Gospel passage is usually where we begin. The spiritual life is about a relationship with God. We have to get to know Him by spending time with Him and engaging Him in conversation. Christ desires to have a deep relationship with us. He desires to ask us what we are looking for, and we desire to ask Him where He is staying. My hope and prayer for you this week is that you spend some time meditating on this passage. The Lord is invested in you and

He desires for you to be invested in Him.

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will

Your Spiritual Birthday

01-11-2015Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today we celebrate the feast day of the Baptism of the Lord. In this celebration, God the Father reveals the mission of His Son to the world: the salvation of souls.

In today's Gospel (Mark 1:7-11), we hear that the Spirit of God descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove. The image of the dove is significant in Scripture. In the Old Testament, when a poor family could not afford a lamb to sacrifice as a sin offering, they were instructed to offer two turtledoves instead. In this way, even poor people could make a guilt offering on behalf of their sins. Matthew is drawing our attention to this detail in a beautiful way.

Baptism was already a religious practice before the arrival of Jesus. It was a religious ceremony of repentance. Jesus takes this religious practice and unites it to Himself and transforms it in such a way that it doesn't merely symbolize being cleansed, but actually cleanses us. As Catholics, we believe that Baptism isn't merely a delightful reminder of God's forgiveness, but actually forgives our sins. This is why it is so important.

Baptism is the gateway into the life of Christ, the life of the Church. It not only washes away Original Sin, but it also makes us capable of receiving the other Sacraments. This is why the Church needs to see an official up-to-date edition of someone's baptismal certificate prior to receiving the other Sacraments. It is through the water and spirit of Baptism that we are reborn into a new life with Christ.

On account of this, we should all celebrate our date of Baptism every year. We celebrate our physical birthday each year, why not celebrate our spiritual birthday? Is our spiritual birthday less important? I think not. In fact, Jesus would argue that it is the more important birthday.

This year, in honor of your spiritual birthday, find out your date of baptism, mark it on your calendar, and renew your baptismal promises. Use it as an opportunity to recommit yourself to Jesus Christ, the sacrificial lamb (and dove) who died for our sins.

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will

What the Wise Men Found

01-04-2015Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today's Gospel (Matthew 2:1-12), when carefully reviewed, shows us how both faith and reason work together in the pursuit of truth. The Magi are considered to be "wise men." They are immersed in the wisdom of nature. They understand the laws of the universe and the truth communicated by the world around them. They are scientists, who examine and study the world in which they live. Their desire for a greater understanding of this truth led them to follow a star, a star which led them on a journey across the world. They were so compelled by their thirst for truth that they were willing to risk all that was familiar to them (their home countries and families) in order to pursue it. Risking safety and security, they followed that star all the way to Bethlehem: a tiny insignificant Jewish town translated as, "The house of Bread." They followed the course of nature, which brought them to a manger (a feeding trough); to a defenseless baby in his mother's arms. The star did not bring them to an all-powerful warrior God like those written about in Greek and Roman legends. It did not bring them to a scroll of wisdom containing the answer to every question ever asked. It did not bring them to the smallest particle upon which the entire universe was constructed. Instead, their scientific examination of the world brought them to the child Jesus.

But this was no ordinary child. This was the Word, the one through whom the whole world was created. This child was the meaning and purpose behind the entire universe. Pope Benedict XVI once said, "It is not the elemental spirits of the universe, the laws of matter, which ultimately govern the world and mankind, but a personal God governs the stars, that is, the universe; it is not the laws of matter and of evolution that have the final say, but reason, will, love – a Person." Science, in the story of the Magi, reaches its purpose, the force behind its search for truth, in an encounter with the child Jesus. The story of the Magi beautifully demonstrates to us that the destination of rational scientific inquiry and examination is an experience of Jesus Christ.

Yet, this experience of Christ does not destroy or obliterate the Magi's pursuit of truth and knowledge. Rather, the experience of Christ reorients them. It gives them a new direction. They do not remain with the child Jesus. Instead, they are given a new mission, a new journey. They are so transformed by the discovery of Christ that they cannot go back the same way from which they came. Christ has changed them. Yet, now they know the reason behind their quest for truth. They have seen the one through whom all things exist and they must continue on in their studies (their pursuit of knowledge). Even though Christ has reoriented their lives, he has not exhausted the mysteries that they love. Instead, he has given purpose to their quest. He has refueled their thirst for truth. He has given them an answer that neither nature alone, nor science alone, nor reason alone, could have given them.

Faith does not seek to destroy reason. Rather, faith seeks to liberate it; to free it so that it can flourish. Pope John Paul II once said, "Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth – in a word, to know Himself." There is a reason behind everything we do in our faith. We are not blind in our faith. Rather, our faith enables us to see things the way they were created to be seen. Through faith, we can see the world with particular meaning and purpose. Reason and science give life and substance to that meaning and purpose.

Those who lack faith live in a world of chance. Things are the way they are much like the way the roll of the dice gives us a random number. There is no meaning in that world. In that world science and reason are closed in on themselves. They are slaves. Don't enslave yourself to such a world. Live in the freedom of Christ. Be like the Magi. Allow God, and the great gift of reason that He has given you, to take you on a humble journey to Bethlehem, to an experience of the child Jesus. For it is only in an experience of Jesus Christ where you will find what you are searching for: the fullness of Life and Truth.

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will

Divine Disturber

12-28-2014Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In today’s Gospel (Luke 2:22-40), we hear the beautiful account of the presentation of Christ in the temple. A major figure in this particular Gospel passage is Simeon, a righteous man who was awaiting the coming of the Savior. When Simeon saw Jesus, he realized that this child was the long awaited Savior and spoke a prophecy to Mary. He said to the Mother of God: “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted - and you yourself a sword will pierce - so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” What does this prophecy mean?

Archbishop Fulton Sheen once wrote about this prophecy in his famous book, “Life of Christ.” In this book, Bishop Sheen notes that Simeon’s prophecy is proclaiming that Christ will “provoke human hearts either to good or evil.” In other words, Christ is a polarizing figure who will either draw out the best in you or expose the worst in you. This is why He is destined for the fall and rise of many. Bishop Sheen elaborates further to say that the closer a human heart comes to an encounter with Christ, the more aware that human heart becomes of its own sinfulness. As a result of this awareness, the person will either then ask for God’s mercy and find peace or turn against Christ because he/she is not ready to give up their sinfulness. Seeking Christ’s mercy and receiving His peace will be the rise of many. Rejecting God because of attachment to sin will be the fall of many.

The question placed before us today in light of this Gospel is, “How will my heart respond to Christ?” Will an encounter of Christ lead me to God’s mercy and peace, or will it fill my heart with fear because of my unwillingness to change? Is my heart fertile ground or hard rock?

Jesus Christ, the “Divine Disturber” seeks to stir up our hearts so that we might let go of all that is not of God so that we might experience fulfillment and peace. This is why he came into the world. This is why he became a little child. This why he died on the Cross. Our hearts are restless until they rest in Jesus Christ. May God make our hearts fertile ground this Christmas season so that we might know the peace of the Savior.

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will

The One Thing Necessary

12-21-2014Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In today's Gospel (Luke 1:26-38), we hear the Scriptural account of the Annunciation, the encounter of Mary with the Archangel Gabriel, where she consents to the Lord's invitation to become the Mother of God. Recently, I came across a beautiful painting of this Scriptural event that I would like to share with all of you. The painting is called, "The Annunciation," and it is by Henry Ossawa Tanner, an early 20th century African-American artist from Pennsylvania. The original can be found in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

There are two aspects of Tanner's portrayal of the Annunciation that I appreciate. First, I appreciate the location of the Blessed Mother at the edge of her bed. This detail beautifully captures Mary's readiness to respond to the Lord's invitation. Even in her sleep, Mary is ready to arise to answer the call of the Lord. Nothing stands in her way from saying "yes" to God. This painting invites us to ask similar questions about ourselves. How ready am I to respond to God's call? What obstacles st and in my way from saying "yes" to Jesus Christ?

The second aspect that I greatly appreciate about this painting is Mary's posture. Mary is in a position of humble receptivit y in the face of the glory of St. Gabriel. At the edge of her bed, Mary sits peacefully with her hands folded in her lap, with her gaze upon the light of St. Gabriel. Her arms are not folded across her chest as if to reveal any kind of doubt or frustration with the Archangel or his message. She is not cowering in the corner trying to hide her face or body from the bright light. She is not in a position of defense or fear. Rather, she is in a position of humble receptivity. She is listening attentively to the profound message being delivered to her, pondering the great significance of it. This humble receptivity is what allows her to say the powerful words that transformed human history: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word."

Mary's posture invites us to ponder our own receptivity to the Lord. Have I put myself in a position where I am open to the Lord's voice? Do I make time for prayer everyday so that I can hear what God is trying to say to me? Father Thomas Dubay, S.M. once wrote:

Mediocre people often have a tinge of religion about them, but it is only a tinge. They take their religion as it comes. They may pray and worship more or less regularly, and they usually stay clear of publicly disgraceful crimes, but they are lukewarm, colorless. Seldom or never do they read a serious book about prayer or study to learn more about God and his plans, to discover how to be humble and chaste and patient. They are always too busy for the one thing necessary.

Does my mediocrity keep me from the Lord? Am I too busy for the one thing necessary? How can I become more receptive to God's call?

Brothers and sisters, as we finish our preparations for the coming of Jesus Christ in just a few short days, may we place ourselves in a position of humble receptivity so that we might always be ready to hear God's voice and respond to His call for our lives.

Peace in Christ, Fr. Will

Annunciation, Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1898, Philadelphia Museum of Art


12-14-2014Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

During the third Sunday of Advent we continue our reflection on the person of John the Baptist. In today's Gospel (John 1:6-8, & 19-28), the priests and Levites ask John the Baptist a crucial question: "Who are you?" His answer to their question is interesting: "I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord." He is not the prophet Elijah. He is not the Messiah. He is merely the voice, in other words, the messenger. His identity is wrapped up in his message. He seeks nothing for himself. Everything is about the message he is called to proclaim.

In a way, all of us are called to be messengers. The Second Vatican Council's Decree on Mission Activity in the Church, Ad Gentes, reminds us of this call: "All Christians…wherever they live, have an obligation to manifest the new man which they put on in Baptism, and to reveal the power of the Holy Spirit by whom they were strengthened at Confirmation, so that others, seeing their good works, might glorify the Father and more perfectly perceive the true meaning of human life and the universal solidarity of mankind" (11). In other words, through the visible witness of our lives, we are called to be messengers like John the Baptist.

How do we become better messengers? The answer to this question lies in our relationship to the message itself. In order to give a greater witness to a message, we must first come to know and love the subject of the message. In the case of the Christian faith, the subject of the message is the person of Jesus Christ. Thus, to be a messenger of Christ, we must first come to know Him and love Him.

There are many ways to grow in our relationship with Christ. First, we come to know Christ in prayer. We become greater messengers of the Gospel by spending more time in prayer. It is in prayer where Jesus Christ strengthens our souls. Maybe an hour each month (or even each week) in Adoration would be a good way for us to grow in Christ?

Second, we can come to know Christ in the teachings of the Church. The Church is an extension of Christ and continues His presence through her teachings. We can become better messengers by taking time to learn more about our faith. Maybe signing up for one of our Tuesday morning book/Bible studies, or our Thursday evening Catholicism series, or our Saturday morning speaker series would help us grow in our understanding of the faith?

Third, we can come to know Christ by sharing our faith with others. It is amazing how much Christ transforms our lives when we choose to speak about Christ with the people in our lives. Sometimes we are met with opposition when we do this. However, a little opposition might be the catalyst we need to get more serious about our faith. Could we really grow in our faith without challenges? Maybe we could invite someone to Mass next weekend? Maybe the good news of Jesus Christ might be what our struggling co-worker needs to hear?

Brothers and sisters, we are called by God to be messengers of His Son, Jesus Christ. Do not be afraid of this beautiful calling. Be with Christ in prayer. Know what Christ teaches through His Church. Share your faith in Christ with others. Let John the Baptist be your guide.

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will

St. John the Baptist

12-05-2014Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Every year in joyful anticipation for the coming of Christ we take time to reflect on the person and mission of John the Baptist. In today's Gospel (Mark 1:1-8), Mark begins by reading to us the call of Isaiah the prophet to "Prepare the way of the Lord" and "make straight his paths." In Isaiah, this particular calling was God's way of filling his people with hope by announcing that their time of exile was almost over and inspiring them to remove any obstacles from their relationship with Him that might keep them from returning to their homeland. However, in Mark's Gospel, this calling from Isaiah is reworded in such a way that it is now redirected from God's people to God's Son, Jesus Christ. It is the words of a Father to His Son, letting His Son know that the way is being prepared for His coming. It is in light of the coming of Christ, the Son of God, that we discover the mission and identity of John the Baptist. He is called to prepare the way for Christ to come into the hearts of God's people.

How does John the Baptist achieve this mission of preparing the way for Christ? First, he accomplishes it from his place of origin: he comes from the desert. This is a significant detail and one that is of no coincidence. Although we live in a desert, the desert in Scripture is a symbol of loneliness and deprivation. It is a symbol of being stripped away of worldly pleasures and comforts. John the Baptist's mission is one that comes completely from God, not from himself. He appears in the desert to demonstrate this truth. He has no worldly glory or appearance. Thus, he is dressed in camel's hair. In this way, his message cannot be misunderstood to be his own. The success of his message cannot be attributed to his great personality or demeanor. He is a poor and dirty man that comes from the desert.

Second, John the Baptist accomplishes his mission of preparing the way for Christ by his choice of words. His words are not directed toward the greatness of himself (although Jesus tells us in Luke 7:28 that there is no one born of women greater than him). Rather, his words are those of repentance and humility: "One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals." His words point away from his own power and might toward the power and might of the Son of God who is to bring hope to God's people.

Inspired by the person and mission of John the Baptist, we are called today to reflect on how well we prepare the way for Christ. Do our words and actions prepare the way for Christ to fill His people with hope? Do we empty ourselves in such a way that Christ is free to work in and through us? Let us pray today that the mission of John the Baptist might become our own; that we might empty ourselves of worldly glory and become "poor in spirit," so that our poverty might make room for Christ to perform great and mighty deeds.

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will