As long as he doesn't convert it into action, it does not matter how much a man thinks about his repentance. - C. S. Lewis (1898 –1963: was a British novelist, poet, and academic)
Gospel Text: (MT 3:1-12)
John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea
and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said:
A voice of one crying out in the desert,
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
John wore clothing made of camel’s hair
and had a leather belt around his waist.
His food was locusts and wild honey.
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.
When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees
coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers!
Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.
And do not presume to say to yourselves,
‘We have Abraham as our father.’
For I tell you,
God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.
Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees.
Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit
will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
I am baptizing you with water, for repentance,
but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.
I am not worthy to carry his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand.
He will clear his threshing floor
and gather his wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
If the world—in all its unfairness, injustice and evil—doesn’t make sense, neither does the response to it that God the Father gives. Why did God send His Son from Heaven to earth, where He knew that there would be men like King Herod, Pontius Pilate, and Judas Iscariot? God did this, and He still does so today, because He is the God of the unexpected.
God chooses to love the unlovable. That is His nature: God is love. He does not love in the way that we love. He loves in a way that we on our own cannot. He loves eternally, and boldly. He does not love you if you do something for Him first. He does not love you until you forget to thank Him, and then stop loving. He does not love you until you offend Him by your sins, and then stop loving you.
If this sounds too good to be true, we should reflect on the reason that God sent His Son down to earth. There’s only one reason why Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and that was to die on Calvary. The meaning of Jesus’ birth was his death. The baby was born in order to crush the ancient serpent.
Of course, because God gave us free will, we can folds our arms across our chest, say “No thank you” to God, and turn our back on this Gift. Often that’s what we do. But the choice is always there before us. That’s why every year, we hear the cry of John the Baptist, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” The way that the Lord wants to travel is the path into the human heart, into which He wants to pour His merciful and forgiving love. But if we block God’s way, He will indeed stop and go no further.
But if we do open a way—a channel—into our hearts, God will pour into our hearts the Gifts of the Holy Spirit: the gifts of wisdom and understanding, counsel and strength, knowledge, fear of the Lord, and piety. Through these we can grow in the image of Christ, and offer ourselves on a daily basis the way to God and neighbor, as Christ did infinitely on Calvary.
Advent is a time to “prepare the way for the Lord”, a time to raise our expectations of ourselves and of God. It is a time to commit ourselves to daily prayer and Scripture reading, to participating in weekday Mass, and the Sacrament of Confession. Yet no matter how little or how greatly we offer ourselves to God, He loves us: continually and boldly, because His love is mysterious and unexpected.