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Sunday, 13 December 2020

St John the Baptist, justice and discipleship

St John the Baptist, herald of justice

Advent for us in the northern hemisphere is at the time of the shortest days of the year. In the midst of the Advent darkness we have today's Gaudete Sunday, the title taken from the ancient introit, "Rejoice (Gaudete) in the Lord always: again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near". The hint of promised joy which will pierce our darkness is seen as we light the third candle on the Advent wreath, which is normally pink, and with rose vestments at the mass instead of the more sombre purple. Today's Gospel features the great Advent figure, St John the Baptist. The writer of the Fourth Gospel proclaims, "He came as a witness to testify to the light". 

Last week on the agenda of the diocesan synod were some matters of justice: the care for God's creation and the renunciation of all forms of racism. We also were introduced to the Church of England-wide process, Living in Love and Faith, a comprehensive study of just about all aspects of human sexuality, but which also addresses matters of justice, as the dignity of all human beings regardless of sexuality, created in God's image and loved unconditionally by God, cannot be taken away. 

Justice is at the heart of our calling as disciples; the followers of Jesus Christ, living lives in pursuit of justice, is how we help to bring light into a darkened world. For that reason, I am grateful for the alternative collect for this Sunday: 

God for whom we watch and wait, you sent John the Baptist to prepare the way of your Son: give us courage to speak the truth, to hunger for justice, and to suffer for the cause of right, with Jesus Christ our Lord.

I think I am correct that our congregation in Varese, in Northern Italy, is the only congregation in the diocese whose patron is the herald of justice, St John the Baptist. My last visit there was in the middle of October, squeezed in between two lockdowns. It is a community where both light and joy can be felt and where the candidates for confirmation were ready to take the light of Christ's justice into the world.  

Confirmations in St John the Baptist, Varese


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