1 st Reading: The first reading, taken from the prophet Isaiah, tells us about the Babylonian exiles coming home to their native country, Judah, and their holy city, Jerusalem. Isaiah assures his people that the Lord will lead them in a grand procession to their homeland and take care of them as a shepherd cares for his sheep.
2 nd Reading: The second reading, taken from the second letter of St. Peter, invites us to get ready to go home to Heaven with Jesus at his Second Coming. Peter tells those who doubt the Second Coming of Jesus that God’s way of counting time is different from ours and that God has His own reasons for delaying the Second Coming of Christ.
Gospel Reading: The Gospel tells us through John the Baptist how we should prepare to receive Jesus our Saviour’s “coming home” into our lives during the Advent season by repentance and the renewal of life. John preached that the appropriate behaviour for those preparing “the way of the Lord” was to be baptized “as they confessed their sins.” He wanted the Jews to prepare their lives for the Messiah by filling in the valleys of prejudice, levelling the mountains of pride and straightening out their crooked paths of injustice and immorality. John recommended a baptism of repentance in the river Jordan to the Jews who were familiar with ritual and symbolic washings. The most amazing thing about John’s baptism was that, as a Jew, he was asking fellow-Jews to submit to the baptism of repentance which only a Gentile was obliged to undergo.
John the Baptist reminds us of someone who was a facilitator, who set the pace. John worked too hard and all the time he knew what his job was. It was to prepare the way for someone else, someone greater than he. That someone was Christ. When Christ appeared, John slipped into the shadows. John believed he had been called by God to do something great – to prepare the way for the coming of the long- awaited Messiah. He knew exactly what his role was. He was only the messenger who announced the king. And he was happy to fulfil this role, and fulfilled it to the very best of his ability. He lived for it, seeking nothing for himself – neither an easy life, the flattery of the people, nor the favour of the powers that were.
John the Baptist was very clear about his self-identity, about who he was and was not. He was not the Messiah. He was only a voice crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord.” He was only a herald of the Messiah, a servant of the Lord, a light to the nations. He said loud and clear, “Someone is following me, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals. I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.” John preached repentance. Man must first repent and then produce fruit. And the fruit must be worthy, consistent with repentance – fruit that shows a changed heart and a turning away from sin. There comes a moment when the preacher longs for his hearers to lose sight of everything except his message. “Don’t listen to my accent. Don’t look at my clothes. Don’t comment on my style. Don’t search my biographical details for my University pedigree. Just listen to what I am saying. Repent!
Billy Graham, who has often played the 20th century role of John the Baptizer, had these comments about the disease running rampant in our world: “We’re suffering from only one disease in the world. Our basic problem is not a race problem. Our basic problem is not a poverty problem. Our basic problem is not a war problem. Our
basic problem is a heart problem. We need to get the heart changed; the heart transformed.” Repentance is a turning away and a turning back. A turning away from sin and a turning back to God. ‘Unless you repent, you’ll all Perish’
Thief entered a church and stole away the tape-recorder. There was a tape in it. When he reached home, he played and found that it was the morning sermon of the priest, “I tell you, unless you repent, you shall likewise perish (Lk 13:3) and he decided to return the player and repent.
We are invited by the Church to prepare for Christmas by repenting of our sins and renewing our lives so that Jesus may be reborn in us. Angelus Silesius said, “Even if Christ is born a thousand times in Bethlehem, it is useless if he is not born in our hearts.”
People around us should recognize Jesus’ rebirth in our lives by our sharing love, unconditional forgiveness, compassionate and merciful heart and spirit of humble and committed service.
Let us accept the challenge of John the Baptist to turn this Advent season into a real spiritual “homecoming” by making the necessary preparations for the fresh arrival of our Lord and Saviour Jesus into our hearts and lives.