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Saturday, December 4, 2010




 Starting the Second Sunday of Advent, we will be guided by John the Baptist in our preparation for the coming of Jesus.   As we enter into this season, as if we enter into a 40-day retreat and our retreat director or master is John the Baptist.  Rightly so because he was the one who prepared the people of Israel for the coming of the Messiah.
          St. Matthew introduced to us the locus of his preaching and that is the desert of Judea.  This was a glimpse of the state of life John had.  John wore a clothing made of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist.  His clothing tells us not just about his garments but the sacrifice he took as part of his prophetic role.   It was most uncomfortable to wear.  The leather around his belt must have caused him pain tremendously.  His food was locust and honey which were all taken from the desert.  I once visited the summer palace of the parents of John the Baptist in Ain Karim and it gave me an impression that they were a very wealthy family. When most of the people were living in caves during the time of Jesus, John the Baptist aside from his house had a summer palace.    We know that John came from an aristocratic priestly family and yet he left everything and lived in the desert in preparation for his role.   
 His message was “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.”  This is the core of John’s prophetic cry: for the people to repent and reform their lives for the sake of the kingdom.    It is amazing to know the charismatic power of John when all of Judea were going out to him to be baptized by him.  People from all walks of life including the Pharisees and Sadducees were listening to his message.   For the people, there was something more than the message.  They knew that John was more than an ordinary man.  In fact St. Matthew said that John the Baptist was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah that we hear from the first reading today.  The coming of the Messiah will usher in the Kingdom of God where the justice and peace will reign.   The visitation of God will not be through the instrumentality of his prophets like the ones in the Old Testament but through the Messiah.
 That is why we say that John the Baptist was the greatest of all the prophets not just because of his message but because of the way he lived his life.  Later on he will be giving up his life for the message and for Jesus.  But in all this greatness, he tells us about his spirituality of humility “I am not worthy to unfasten his sandals.”   Jesus in the later part of the gospels will say that no one born of a woman is greater than John the Baptist.  Maybe next to Our Lady and St. Joseph, we could even say that John the Baptist was the greatest man ever born.  And yet, in all this, he knew himself so well : “The one coming after me is mightier than me”.  
When we reflect John’s life, we embrace his message with joyful expectancy.  This is what Advent is all about.   Jesus is coming not just in the world and the Church once again but most especially in our personal lives.  His coming is a visitation which will bring peace and blessing to us.   We need to hear the “voice crying out” in the wilderness and dryness of our hearts.  And the message is repentance or metanoia.  The word metanoia comes from the Greek words meta and nous which mean beyond the mind and literally it means a complete turnabout from our former lives to something new because we are meeting our Messiah.
My brothers and sisters, we will be hearing more of John the Baptist in the coming Sundays.

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