Is 61: 1-2a, 10-11; 1Thes 5:16-24; Jn 1: 6-8; 15-28
3rd Sunday of Advent
If you’re trying to market a new soft-drink, be sure to include the words “thirst quencher” in the ad copy. It’s a powerful phrase; to “quench” something is to totally and completely obilterate it. When you’re thirsty, you don’t want to reduce your thirst, or manage it, or learn how to live with it – you want to completely and utterly destroy it.
It’s interesting to me that the same word is used in our translation of this week’s second reason from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians: “Do not quench the Spirit.” Paul’s implication seems to be that the Holy Spirit is alive and well and blowing powerfully in the Thessalonian church. The Spirit is like an enormous conflagration that consumes everthing in its’ path and not at all like a tiny, flickering campfire that has to be tended carefully and for which much effort must be exerted in order to prevent it from going out. Often the New Testament depicts life in the Spirit as something that catches you up and takes your breath away.
Yet as those who fight forest fires know, even the greatest blazed can be “quenched” if you have enough water. And even the most powerful movements of the Spirit can be quenched if smothered under enough false piety and self-righteousness.
Sin in the garden variety sense can dampen the Spirit, cut down on the intensity of the joyful experience of being caught up in the Spirit, but it’s generally not enough to quench it. As is demonstrated time and time again in the gospels, all kinds of sinners – prostitutes, tax collectors, theives, adulterers , for example – come around to repentence when placed face to face and heart to heart with the Love that Jesus embodies. The self-righteous Pharisees and scribes, however, are another matter. They are the real “Spirit-quenchers” of the gospels, who ignore miracles and who allow their hearts to harden against Love and against Truth.
When was the last time you were stopped dead in your tracks by Love or Truth or Beauty? Do you believe such experiences are possible? Have you allowed the fire of the Spirit to dim within your own true self? Let us pray that this Advent season the candles that we light will be those within our hearts.
Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgirm)