“Every great movement needs an agitator. Every leader of spiritual ideals needs a John the. Baptist.” ~ William Allen White
As is our liturgical tradition in the Catholic Church, the Second Sunday of the Advent Season is devoted in part to the introduction of John the Baptist. In fact this week and next, our Gospel Redings invite us to consider John the Baptist and his vibrant relationship with Jesus. His is a message of repentance and reform, proclaimed first to the people of Israel, yet this message would resonate and echo throughout time.
The three Synoptic Gospels ~ Mark, Matthew, and Luke ~ attest to and underscore the importance of the baptism of John in preparing for Jesus. Only in the Gospel of Luke however is the connection between these two men to their birth extended. The first two chapters of Luke's Gospel contain the Infancy Narrative, which details the births of John the Baptist and Jesus. These stories set the stage for the beginning of Jesus' public ministry, which unfolds in earnest in Chapter 3, which we embark upon today. John the Baptist is presented as the figure who bridges the time before Christ and prepares the way for Christ's own ministry.
Before Jesus began his public ministry, Saint John the Baptist began his. From the wilderness, he cried, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” (Matthew 3:2). We as a church echo this cry during the second week of Advent. We are called to repent, to turn away from sin and towards God. This of course runs contrary to the Evil One’s diabolical desires. Satan wants to draw us away from the Father and towards himself, he who is pride and sin incarnate. He will first trick you into thinking that sinful behavior is not at all sinful. As children of the light however, the truth is written on our hearts. Eventually this truth bubbles to the surface. It is then that Satan connives us into believing that these sins, the same sins that he had previously convinced us were not even sins, are now unforgivable. That our sins are too great and too many for God’s mercy. The depravity of Satan, the enemy and devourer of souls, knows no limits.
John the Baptist however has a far different message for the faithful. “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and gather the weed into his barn.”
Advent is a great liturgical season of anticipation and waiting. The waiting we engage in however cannot be of the passive variety. As author Katy Kauffman puts it, “The angels heralded the birth of the Savior, John the Baptist heralded the coming of the Savior, and we herald the gospel of the Savior.” We must yearn, search, and reach out for the God who humbled Himself so as to share in our humanity. The God who promises that “the winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth,” and that “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (Luke 3:5-6).
I leave you with the words of Saint Paul as captured so eloquently in his Letter to the Philippians and proclaimed by way of our 2nd Reading today (Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11). He calls it his prayer for the people of Philippi. He prays “ that your love may increase even more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value so that you may be pure and blameless in the day of Christ filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ and the glory and praise of God.“ ~ Amen
Saint John the Baptist, pray for us….