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I teach New Testament Greek at St. John’s Seminary. The first thing I tell my class on the first day is to put away the notebooks and pens; they won’t need them to learn the alphabet. I do this because I know what is going to happen otherewise. They would write down the Greek alphabet in their notebooks so they could learn the alphabet on their own that night. Then they would leave the class with every good intention to really study hard when they got to their rooms. Then they would go to their first Metaphysics class and the professor is going to give them a six-hundred-page tome and a ten-page paper. Then at the beginning of my second class, when I ask the students if they memorized the Greek alphabet and they would say, “No.” “Why not”? “Because something came up.” So when I am teaching, they are not going to learn the Greek alphabet tonight, they are not going to learn the Greek alphabet tomorrow morning, or before my next class. They are going to learn the Greek alphabet now. The first thing I say when I start the first class is “Repeat after me, ‘You can’t chew alphabet soup and gum at the same time.’ Say it.” Naturally, they do not want to repeat the phrase because it sounds silly, but I insist. I then I ask them to say it again, “Louder…say it again.” After three time I say, “Congratulations, you just learned the first three letters of the Greek alphabet: alpha, beta, gamma. Do you want to know the fourth letter of the alphabet? You can’t chew alphabet soup and gum at the same time on a Delta airline: alpha, beta, gamma, delta.” I am happy to announce that I have a new personal best. The last class I taught learned the alphabet in a record ten minutes. How was it possible for my entire class of students with varying intellectual capabilities to learn a difficult alphabet so quickly? I made it easy for them.
Now think how hard it is for a hardened sinner or tax collector to completely change their lives. Can the Pharisees do this? I don’t think so. Do we hear reports of mass conversions with the high priests and the Sadducees. Not that I know. Yet these sinners go in droves to John the Baptist and have a change of heart. How is that possible? Because he made it very easy. In the desert it is very hot, and everyone is more than happy to cool off with a baptism in the Jordan. When they come out of the water, they are refreshed, cooled off, renewed with a new Spirit, and cleansed of sin.
One of the guys in my house told me that there was something wrong with the dryer, and we may have to buy a new one. I turned it on and there was a loud grinding noise. I got a screw driver and took a look inside. Sure enough, the wheel that turns the drum had broken off. I got the catalogue and found the model number of the part and ordered it. Eight to ten days later the part came in the mail and I popped the wheel into the shaft. I turned it on and the wheel fell off the shaft. I needed a lock pin to hold the wheel in place. You would think that they would send you one with the wheel. No, that part is sold separately. So I got the catalogue once again and ordered the part. Eight to ten days later it came in the mail. I put the wheel back and locked it in place with the lock pin and it worked beautifully. All told, it cost about twelve dollars, ten minutes of work, and lots and lots of patience.
When John the Baptist looked inside the heart of the sinner he thought, “No problem: A little dirt from years of hard times. A little work and some patience, water from the river and grace will bring that heart a fresh clean start.” The sinner would think: “Is it that easy to regain the grace of God.”
remember when the Lord said to the Pharisees,
“Woe to you scribes and Pharisees
You’d almost think they were mass murderers or something worse. Then
we find out that their fault lies in their pride. Jesus then gives them a
remedy for their pride. They walked about wearing their long phylacteries. That
is an easy fix with a pair of scissors and a few snips. They occupy seats of
honor. Again, another easy fix. Just get up from the chair walk over to another
chair and sit again.
Remember the dyer story I just told. It made some noise and I took a look inside to see the problem. Sometimes life does not always go as smoothly as we want it. Sometimes we find that not everything is just right, that we lost hope, or we no longer shine as we once did. We notice that there is consistent grinding noise of complaints coming out of our body so we go in for a look at our heart. We take a look at our heart and say “Hum, that doesn’t look so bad. I could use a little more sleep, some exercise, better diet, take out some stress, simplify our life, a few more prayers.” It is all easy fixes. The reason it is easy is because we have great teachers to make it easy. That is why we follow the Lord.Back to All Homilies