Daily Office Readings for Monday after the First Sunday of Lent: Year 2
“Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locust and wild honey.” (Mark 1:6)
Now the locust pods of which John ate were a pod-bearing tree of the family that includes the honey locust, swamp locust, and carob. Family: Leguminosae. For many years I thought John was eating grass hoppers. I used to love telling John the Baptist stories to children and hearing them say “yuk” at the thought of eating wild grass hoppers. It wasn’t till I visited Israel that I learned that the locust pod with honey was what John was actually eating. John was an outsider, and a vegetarian it seems. He dressed rough even by the standards of his day. What’s important about John the Baptist is that he emptied himself in order to create space for what God wanted. A cup or a glass or a bowl is no good to us if it’s full. Only an empty vessel is good for holding the food or drink we need.
There were so many people of human power in John’s day that were full of themselves. And God knows who is receptive to the Word of God. Listen to the opening of chapter 3 of Luke again: “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.” (Luke 3: 1 – 2)
Notice that while so many were full of themselves with their human titles, John was away from all that, living in the wilderness, free to go and announce the coming of our Lord Jesus. The wilderness was not so far removed that the word of God could not reach him. The same is true today. Each, and every one of us should have some “alone” time. Remember the quote from Blaise Pascal, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” John sat quietly off to himself eating his sweet cereal and pondering about the Good News he was about to bring to the world, to us. We must look past how his life ended in human terms.
The president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has emptied himself in order to be fully present for his people. He is living in a wilderness hell. I am convinced that he is listening to God’s call on his life as he continually calls for an end to Russian military aggression against his people. While Zelenskyy is Jewish, so was John the Baptist. Both listened to a higher calling and we should too.
As we listen to what the Spirit is saying to us, let us live to love, to serve, and to teach, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John