In the readings for the second week of Advent, we are introduced to St. John the Baptist. Jesus himself said of John, “among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist.” This seems like an odd claim for Jesus to make, especially considering John’s clothing made from camel skin and his diet consisting of locusts and wild honey. However, before we consider Jesus’s claim about John the Baptist’s greatness, I’d like to begin by sharing a section from Luke’s Gospel.
In Luke 10:38-42, two sisters, Martha and Mary, welcome and host Jesus as he travels to Jerusalem. Martha, a good and generous host, is busy serving Jesus and his disciples while Mary sits at Jesus’ feet and listens to him speak. Obviously angry by her sister’s unwillingness to help serve their guests, Martha asks Jesus, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” Jesus answers her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”
Let’s pause and reflect on Jesus’ response to Martha. “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” This Advent season, as Christmas rapidly approaches, how easy is it for us to take the same role as Martha, seeking nothing more than to serve our friends and families?
There is nothing wrong with preparing a good meal for our families or finding the perfect Christmas gift for our children or parents but our Lord makes it clear that nothing is more important than pursuing a relationship with God. Jesus recommends we do this by finding rest in him and listening to his words.
It may seem difficult to find rest in the busyness of the Advent and Christmas seasons but Jesus offers us the comfort of knowing that he is the only thing that truly matters. Even if we are anxious about planning the perfect Christmas party or finding that perfect gift, Jesus frees us from the burden of our anxieties. He wants nothing more than for us to know him more this Advent and Christmas season.
John the Baptist understood this and knew his place in God’s plan for our salvation. He was not worried about what he would wear or what people would think of him or what he would eat for every meal because he trusted that God’s plan for his life would triumph over his anxieties and fears.
Trusting in God may not always be easy. We can all probably think of a time when we asked God for something and he did not seem to answer us in the way we expected or wanted. We must remember that God does not work as a genie who grants all of our wishes. Rather, he calls ordinary people like John the Baptist (and us) to do extraordinary things according to his will.
As we continue this Advent season, let us consider how we can grow in relationship with Christ amidst the busyness of the holiday season and let us follow the example of St. John the Baptist who trusted in God’s plan for his life and who now intercedes for us from Heaven.
(Matthew Freedlund is a senior at the University of Iowa and serves as the Faith Formation: Special Events Fellow at the Newman Catholic Student Center on campus. He is from Rockton, Illinois.)