Thursday of the Second Week of Advent
I like meeting people. One of the delights of my work with the Selim Center for Lifelong Learning is meeting lots of really interesting people–schoolteachers, carpenters, business leaders, groundskeepers, empty nesters, doctors, lawyers, professors–who all share a common desire to continue learning.
When I meet new Selim Center students, I often ask, “So what’s your story?” As they answer that question, I am privileged to learn some of their personal history and the paths that led them to us.
This reflection on meeting new people was prompted by today’s Gospel reading, where we meet John the Baptist, one of the more interesting people in the New Testament. He lives in the wilderness, dresses weirdly, and eats even more weirdly. He wears camel’s hair and a leather belt and eats locusts and wild honey. Who is this guy?
John was a problem for the early church because he had the potential to take the focus away from Jesus. He was a prophetic reformer who drew large crowds of followers. In today’s Middle East, there is an ethno-religious sect group called Mandaeans for whom John the Baptist, not Jesus, is the major figure, and whose ritual practice includes repeated baptisms.
So, what’s his story? You can listen for yourself. Matthew’s answer is in chapters 3 and 11. You can hear Luke’s answer this Sunday. I’ve learned that, when I really pay attention when someone is telling me their story, my life can be changed. As Jesus says in the Gospel according to Matthew, “Let anyone with ears listen!” (MT 11:14)
Director, Selim Center for Lifelong Learning