My dear friends in Christ,
At the centre of the gospel this weekend is the figure of John the Baptist; he will be in next week’s gospel too. John the Baptist is understood as a bridge between the Old and New Testaments in that the promised salvation of God which is hoped for and testified to in the Old Testament is realised in the person of Christ in the New Testament. John the Baptist is one of those key people who directs to Jesus, the person in whom we find salvation: “Repent, for the kingdom of God is close at hand… prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight.”
One of the themes which runs through Advent is that of ‘liberation’; God comes to set us free. This brings us into the area of repentance where we ask ourselves, ‘what are the things that enslave us that we need to let go of? What attitude or behaviour pattern do we hang onto that is not helpful for our spiritual life?
Indeed, God wants to set us free, but we need to be willing to throw off the shackles and let go. This is not easy!
I don’t know if you’ve heard of how hunters catch monkeys (not in Shoeburyness!). They will cut a small hole in a coconut, just large enough for the monkey to put its hand in and fill it with a sweet treat and leave the coconut fixed under a tree. The poor monkey would smell the treat, squeeze its hand into the coconut, grab the treat in its paw and find that its fist would not come through the hole. Since the monkey will not let go of the treat, the monkey holds itself a prisoner. While it sits there desperately grasping its treat, the smart hunter comes and catches it. Poor monkey! All it had to do was let go of the treat and remove its hand from the coconut and run for freedom.
The story speaks for itself and begs the question, ‘what do I need to let go of to get my hand out of the ‘coconut’? Einstein said “We cannot solve problems using the same kind of thinking we used to create them.” We like to think we are able and wise enough to let go of something to gain our freedom, however, the truth is, many of us hang on to things so tightly that we imprison ourselves without even knowing it.
Have a good week,