By Mary Lou Kownacki, osb
Every story has a hero. The Christmas story is no different. This Sunday, we meet the first hero of the season. His name is John.
What makes a person a hero?
I remember two of mine. The Catholic high school I attended in the 50’s had a yearly retreat. In my sophomore year I was disrupting a period of silence and was told either to “go to the library and get a book to read or go to the office for detention.”
I opted for the library and grabbed a book titled Tumbleweed from the table filled with retreat materials. In those pages I met Catherine de Hueck Doherty, the Baroness. Almost forty years later I remember how my heart burned within me as I read the story of her life, how this woman who was born to privilege in Russia lost everything during the revolution and came to understand that being a Christian meant serving the poorest of the poor. It gave me a whole new vision of what it took to be a follower of Jesus. It greatly influenced my life and was probably the best retreat I ever made.
Another time, I was traveling by Greyhound and to pass the time I read a book containing the essential writings of Mahatma Gandhi. This was my first introduction to Gandhi and to nonviolence. I remember wanting to run down the aisle of the bus, telling everyone about this beautiful soul and how listening to him could change the world. His words set me on fire and I wanted to spread the flame. Meeting Gandhi propelled me into the peace movement.
Heroes change lives. Both of my heroes were vital people who energized. Both of these people called out the best in me. Both of them lived for something greater than themselves. Both of them held fast to a dream despite ridicule, rejection, suffering and, in Gandhi’s case, threats of assassination.
John is this kind of hero. In today’s gospel he brings new spirit into the wasteland. His words will touch the core of many hearts. Peoples’ lives will change because of his message. He will paint a dream of valleys overflowing with justice, of mountains leveled by love. He will be killed for his dream.
Like all genuine heroes, he invites us to take his message and carry it to greater heights.
This reflection is from Awaiting Christmas: Beauty Ancient, Ever New – Advent Reflections 1997. Mary Lou Kownacki, osb is a Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace.