Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Today, we hear about the story of St. John the Baptist, the one who became the herald and the messenger of the coming of the Messiah, the Christ, the One who was to save the world. St. John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus was the one who prepared the way for the Lord, not with loud trumpets and the song of angels, but with the call in the desert, the call for the repentance of peoples.
For mankind had been long under the thrall of sin, such that they were long enslaved by the evils of sin. They were not prepared to receive the Lord in that state. They have to be prepared first, that when the Lord came, they were in a state where they would be more receptive to the messages of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
John gained great successes, because throngs of people came to him to be baptised at the Jordan, and committed themselves to the repentance over their sins. Yet, this does not mean that he had an easy job, as you all would notice, how, just as Jesus had encountered opposition and challenges from them, John too faced the Pharisees and the Sadducees, who trusted only in themselves and in their religious knowledge and truth, and not in the revelation brought first by John and made whole by Christ.
They were the people whose sense of self-righteousness brought the people of God to ruin. They thought that they had been very pious and faithful to the Lord by obeying all of His commandments and laws without fail, but they had gotten it all wrong. When they did all those rituals and commandments, they did them not for God, but for themselves.
They liked to be praised on the streets, in the Temple, and by whoever they met along the way. They were the pious ones, the influential ones, the powerful ones, the ones with authority over the people, as leaders and teachers of the people especially in the matters pertaining to the faith, and yet they failed, miserably. They looked and thought highly upon themselves and condemned others who did not do what they had done.
They questioned John because they first saw in him, a rival to their teaching authority and their influence. They also questioned him because they did not look highly and kindly on him, just as later on they would not have high regards for Jesus either. For them, the faith is all about obedience, observation, and most importantly, to them, the obedience of the people to their way and method of teaching, including the way of thinking and the way they had interpreted the faith for the people.
In this, they had misled the people, and brought them to damnation instead of to salvation, and that was why John was so angry at them, for these people had abused their authority as leaders of the people, leading them to the wrong way. John showed the people a preview of the work of salvation in Jesus, that is mercy and love.
If the Pharisees condemned sinners and people they thought as unworthy as sinners, thinking that they did not deserve salvation, unlike them, and if the Sadducees jeered on those who put their faith in the resurrection and new life in God after this world, John and later Jesus Himself, showed that the nature of God is love, compassion, kindness, and mercy.
The Lord is slow to anger and rich in mercy, and if only that we repent and turn our back from our lives of sin, the Lord will welcome us with wide, open hands, to welcome us into His kingdom, the rewards He had repeatedly promised us through Jesus Himself. In the Gospels, Jesus repeatedly said to His disciples and to the people, that all who believe in Him will not die but live, a new and eternal life. Jesus also repeatedly stressed that the Lord shows mercy to those who seek His forgiveness
Jesus did not make all those promises as if they are empty promises. That is because they are all real, brethren! Jesus made these promises to us, and seal them with none other than His own sacrifice on the cross. Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection three days after that are the culmination of the long-planned plan of salvation God had crafted for us all, ever since we fell into sin. And John, who cried in the desert asking the people to repent, made the first step in the fulfillment of that plan.
Yes, brethren, Jesus offered Himself freely to us, and His salvation He also offered freely to us, from up there on the cross. He did not die for nothing. He died so that we can live. We ought to heed the call of St. John the Baptist, and begin to reflect on our own selves if we had not done so, on whether we have repented from our sinfulness and change our ways for the better, or whether we have ignored the heeding of the Lord made clear through John.
We often play the part of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, that is to be jealous of others who steal our glory, to fear those who are going to humiliate us or take away the authority away from us. We often become judgmental of others, thinking of the faults in others while failing to see the failures that we ourselves possessed. This is why, we, like the Pharisees and the Sadducees, despite our sinfulness and weaknesses, did not go and make an effort to change ourselves.
We are often too busy to spend some time with the Lord, and instead our faith becomes more like a chore and a routine rather than true faith and devotion. We go to church every Sunday, attend the Mass, receive the Holy Communion, and then we go back, go back to our daily routines, and we repeat this again and again, over and over again. If I ask you, what is the meaning behind all of these routines?
The Lord has given His all to us, He even died for us, for our sake, to spare us the fate of death, and He even sent a messenger to prepare the way for Him, and to act as an extra set of mouth to remind the people of the importance for them to repent, and to realise how much their God loves them. But we are often not serious in our love for Him, because we are too busy with our own businesses, with our own daily routines, and with the world!
Yes, just as the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the teachers of the Law. They were too busy in their own world of righteousness and in their fallacy of salvation, that they failed to notice the Messiah when He came into the world, and they rejected Him, just as they had doubted and rejected John at the Jordan. This is the path to damnation, and we have a choice here, brothers and sisters. Will we choose to go the same way as they had done?
This Advent season has entered its second week, and in another three weeks, we will be celebrating the birth and the coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ into this world at Christmas. He abandoned the glory of heaven and even His own divinity so that He can be with us, and eventually to sacrifice Himself for us. That is how serious and strong is His love for us. Are we able to do the same for Christ?
Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us today onwards, heed the call of St. John the Baptist, to repent for the kingdom of God is near. It is coming soon, and we do not know when it will exactly come. We certainly do not want to be caught unprepared when Christ comes again in His glory to judge all creations. It is up to us, whether we want to be judged with the righteous and enter the eternal glory of heaven, or with the damned, to suffer eternally in hell, a total separation from the love of God.
May the Lord watch over us, and help us to make a wise decision, that our lives will be able to change for the better, and no longer sin, but to love more tenderly from now on, that we will truly be worthy of being called, the children of God. God bless us all. Amen.