The webpage of the Youth Ministry of the Irish Province of Augustinians

2nd Sunday of Advent, Year A - 5th December 2010

Today's gospel passage presents us with the figure of John the Baptist.  This is the one of whom Jesus said that no one greater had been born of woman.  He is often referred to as the precursor of Jesus and the greatest of all the prophets.

Despite his many titles John is a figure that remains distant from most modern experience.  If he were to appear today he would probably be discounted as some sort of new age hippy with his strange clothes and even stranger diet.  Even though our modern society claims to value difference it often has difficulty coping with those who are different.

John certainly represents a counter-cultural figure.  His physical appearance only serves to underline the fact that we are not dealing with just any, common or garden preacher.

I think the key to understanding John is prophesy.  We often think of prophets as those who can foresee the future but really, in the Bible, the prophet is the one who calls the people back to the observance of God's law - especially in relation to justice.  This call is normally made in the context of a call to repentance understood in the hebrew sense of the word - to retrace one's steps until one has found where he has left the way.

John preaches a gospel of repentance.  This is a gospel that reminds the people that they know how they should be living and that there is still time to re-find their way.  Repentance is not necessarily the same as penitence or penance.  Penitence or penance have to do with the disciplining of one's self so as to be properly trained to face the road ahead.  Repentance is about going back - going back to the way; going back to each other; going back to God.

John presents the people with a clear choice - either they repent or they will be excluded from what is to come.  That is to say that if anyone should choose not to repent they have also thereby chosen to exclude themselves from the message of the Messiah and from his kingdom.

This same choice echoes down to us through the centuries.  What do we really want?  Do we want to take part in the kingdom of God? or, do we want to continue on the path we are going?

We cannot do both and whatever choice we make will have consequences.  John presents this choice in very stark terms that do not admit of much compromise.  It is hardly surprising that he was eventually killed by those he challenged.

Perhaps the starkness of this choice will make John seem a little anachronistic to our modern minds but, nonetheless, the same choice is ours.


Article posted on 3rd of December 2010

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