Sunday, January 19, 2014

Breaking Bad and John the Baptist, Yo!

During the past few weeks, I've found myself hooked on "Breaking Bad."  I've watched several seasons worth of episodes and can't seem to get enough of this show.  For those who do not know of the show, I can assure you that there is nothing really redeeming about the program.  In a nutshell, the show is about a high school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with terminal cancer.  In order to provide for his family before he dies, he and a former student of his, begin to cook Meth and to be drug dealers.  

The show came to mind as I thought about today's Gospel.  Everyone in that show wants to be happy.  They desperately want to be happy.  But, they're all miserable.  And in every episode, they become more miserable.  There are occasionally moments when some semblance of happiness looks possible, but it is fleeting and the character descends to a deeper level of misery. The show is filled with overdoses, murders, embezzlement, power struggles, adultery, rage, betrayals, and deceit.  They all want to be happy, and the paths that they travel to get there are all dead ends.  They are what the spiritual tradition has called, "The Deadly Sins:" Pride, Anger, Lust, Envy, Gluttony, Avarice, and Sloth.  They don't do these things in order to be miserable, but because they think that these paths will make them happy.  They don't know how to be happy, but they want to be happy.

Today, in the Gospel, John the Baptist stands surrounded by the crowds.  The crowds who came to see John were there because they too wanted to be happy.  They were looking to John the Baptist for an answer.  What the people discover in John the Baptist is not a man who holds out his hands and says, "Here I am.  I will make you happy."  He doesn't propose some new idea or some new gimmick for happiness.  He doesn't start a website that promises to help you find the person who will make you happy.  He doesn't offer a new drug, a path to self-improvement, or money.  Instead, as all eyes were fixed on  John, he raises his hand and points to Christ: "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world."  John does something entirely new.  He points to the presence of Christ and says, "That man is where you will find happiness."  

It's a pretty cool thing that for the past two thousand years, thousands of times a day all over the earth, the words of John the Baptist are quoted, "Behold the Lamb of God.  Behold him who takes away the sins of the world."  This is the whole mission of the Church.  The Church points to Christ and testifies to Him.  The people that we encounter every day want to be happy.  Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, "I'd like to be miserable today."  Everyone wants to be happy.  But, like "Breaking Bad," so many folks only know the seven dead ends--Pride, Envy, Lust, Gluttony, Sloth, Anger, and Avarice.  

Even those of us who have encountered Christ are sometimes convinced that the Dead Ends might lead us to happiness.  Whether we have met Christ or not, we all need witnesses.  We need to see people who have been changed by the encounter with Christ, people who are truly happy.  We need to see happiness not just in theory but in reality.  We are called to be like John the Baptist and to bear witness to Christ by pointing towards him.  If we do not point to Christ--by the testimony of our words and our life--then we leave others only with the Seven Dead Ends.  Convinced ourselves of Christ's love, we have the possibility of offering to others a way out of their misery.  

Sometimes, we hinder our own efforts at evangelization by sounding like we are just promoting our own ideas, morality, and opinions.  Today, John the Baptist invites us simply to point to Jesus Christ, the Lamb whose Blood gives true life and lasting happiness. He is what we are all looking for.  He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  Happy are those who are called to the supper of the Lamb.

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