The Life & Role of John the Baptist Parallels the Purpose of Advent

Second Sunday of Advent
December 5, 2010
Mt. 3:1-12
John the Baptist was the son of Zachariah and Elizabeth. He was born when both were elderly and was dedicated to God at his birth. He lived a life of austerity and prayer in the desert; and when he began his work, he was the nation's first prophet in four hundred years.

His message was “Repent and change your life to prepare for the Messiah who will reveal himself very soon and will proclaim the reign of God.”

John had an amazing appeal to the people of his time for many reasons. Not only was he the first prophet in four hundred years, but his message signaled the end of the long wait for the promised savior. His message, repent for the reign of God is near, called for immediate spiritual preparation on the part of each person. It was no easy message, but the people found hope and encouragement in his words.

I am of the opinion that his listeners found their lives to be empty and lacking direction. I wonder if some people in our time might have a parallel experience - crowded and busy lives, many demands on their attention, and limited sense of God in their lives.

John's message challenged the people to turn their lives around. He was bothered by insincere people who wanted to appear righteous without evidence that they had undergone spiritual renewal. Some he called 'a brood of vipers, hypocrites, pious frauds' and warned against shallowness or a veneer of religion.
john the baptist

What would be John's message to us today if he were to enter our church assembly? The chances are we might not like him or his message. He might say to me as priest, "You are not spending three or four hours each day in prayer, in meditation, in reading the 'word' and in listening to God."

To one or more congregation members he might say, "You do not set aside any time during the day to pray unless you are asking for something. Even during Mass, you are distracted by everything and every person; you seldom come to Mass expecting God to speak to you; and your time in Mass is spent waiting for it to be over.” He might ask whether church members spend as much time preparing for Mass as they do preparing for football or basketball games or for hunting or shopping trips.

To someone else he might say, "Your thoughts, attitudes and conversations are not Christ like, and your relationships are laden with inappropriate sexual overtones."

To parents who are blessed with children, John might ask, '”Why are you not passing on the faith to your children? Did you bring your child(ren) to Mass today?"

Most of us might feel challenged and many might be threatened by his message and questions to us. My reason for reflecting on John's message or role is that these parallel the purpose of Advent for each of us. During this season of preparation, the Church calls each of us to address the areas of our lives that need change and to remember the real meaning of Christmas in our lives.

As one week of Advent is already passed, we might ask
a) What, if any, spiritual development has taken place in our life?
b) What is the one pressing change that we should make during this Advent? and
c) Before leaving mass today, will we make a commitment to initiate that change today?

We pray: O God, give me the wisdom to know the things I must change in my life, give me the strength and courage to make that change, remove the things that hinder me from being open to God's grace, and give me and my family inner peace this Advent and Christmas season. Amen.