Today’s reflection is for the Second Sunday of Advent, December 8, 2019, and the readings can be found by clicking here.
On our journey toward both the cradle and the Coming, we encounter a fantastic character in the Scriptures, John the Baptist. He serves as the “herald” of Jesus, the coming Messiah. He announces a message of repentance and conversion. Both are necessary, of course. We must repent of our wrong doing, be converted back to Christ, and show evidence (fruit) of our total transformation! What an exciting time that must have been; throngs of people streaming toward the river to be made new again, to start over, and to change their lives.
The Gospel today read, “At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.” What a beautiful sight. Would that we too would stream toward reconciliation, forgiveness, and transformation this Advent season!
As the Pharisees and Sadducee approached to be baptized by John, he asks them, “Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath!” What a great question, rhetorical though it may have been. WHO warned you? No one really likes to talk about sin these days, it seems. No one wants to confront the reality of sin, and guilt, consequence, and the awareness that I need to change who I have become in light of who I want to be. We have a real loss of a sense of sin these days. Most would rather forego the thought that they may have done wrong, and instead live in a pretend world where I can do nothing wrong. And others are afraid to call it like it is, and say, “That’s wrong,” when they see others falling into sin. Too many today are minding their own business while the world falls apart right in front of our eyes.
As an elementary school assistant principal, I am confronted almost daily with students and parents alike with an absolute unwillingness to acknowledge wrongdoing. Multiple times a day I try to convince a hard-faced young person that we all make mistakes, that sometimes who lose our temper, or are tempted to do something we should not do. I help them to see their goodness, but to acknowledge that sometimes they stumble and fall. Usually in short order, the child, made aware of their goodness, and assured that this act is not the end, that they can recover, that there will be a consequence but I will help them work through it, their guard begins to come down, their heart softens, their eyes well up, and they admit their wrongdoing. It’s such a beautiful thing. I always give them a hug or deep, meaningful handshake and watch them leave my office a little more human. Adults are more difficult.
These conversations are necessary for all of us. Today’s gospel reminds us that God always calls us to let down our guard, acknowledge our wrong, and grow in holiness. So, who warned you to flee the coming wrath? Have you ever thanked them? And who have you warned to flee the coming wrath? Have you done it lovingly?
Helping someone to self-reflect, let down their guard, and be transformed is a delicate and beautiful thing. It’s takes grace, humility, genuine concern for the other person, body and soul. It demands that we take the time to enter into a relationship with someone who we may not necessarily be happy with at that moment, but it is absolutely necessary if we are going to participate with God in bringing the good news of salvation to others. It is absolutely necessary if we are going to help people to prepare for the coming of the Son of Man, and if we are going to help people begin to prepare a manger, that Jesus Christ might be born in their heart on Christmas Day.
“Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. [Because] every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire, [and] the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals.”
Thank you, John the Baptist.