When this message comes out I will be in Texas for our annual family reunion. For the past several years I’ve made it a priority to attend, because Aunt Lena, my dad’s last living sibling, has now had two strokes, and I keep thinking it will be her last reunion. Last month, at the age of 91, she had a fall and has been first in hospital, then rehab. I doubt seriously she will make the 150 mile trip. It’s looking like last year was the last time she joined the rest of the family for the celebration. (Yet she may still surprise us; I’ll let you know next week.) It’s likely that the next time I see her will be when I get the call asking me to come down to do her funeral.
When that day happens, I have a feeling that Jesus will be saying something like what we hear him say to the righteous in the judgment scene in Matthew’s gospel: “Well done, good and faithful servant. Come inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” That sounds so different than what we hear from John the Baptist: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” So how do we make sure that we hear, “Welcome!” and not, “You viper!”? I think the key is in our readings. John addresses those words to the Pharisees and Sadducees, the religious leaders who thought of themselves as better than most, and held themselves apart from “sinners”. They’re the same people that Jesus gets upset with for things like laying heavy burdens on peoples’ shoulders and not lifting a finger to help carry them, or “tithing mint and rue and ignoring the weightier matters of the law”. Jesus wants us to be compassionate to others, to be present to those who suffer, to serve those in need. He wants us to be humble, admitting and accepting our brokenness and humanity, repenting of the times we are in the wrong, and trying to do better. He wants us to realize that we are sisters and brothers of one another, children of one heavenly Father.
That is one reason we put so much effort into Assumption Cares. It is a way of being present to those who have needs, and a way of realizing how we are all sisters and brothers. This weekend’s first reading from Isaiah is the second of three that offer us God’s vision for the world, when all creation can live in harmony. I invite you to pray with me that any service we render to others may lead us along the path, where we will meet Christ Jesus and experience his vision for us.