Sunday, December 8
Second Sunday of Advent
Matthew 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.”
As Christmas approaches children throughout the world are writing (or maybe texting??) letters to Santa. There are scribbled requests for video games, dolls, bikes, and so on, followed by assurances to Santa that these children have been “nice” and not “naughty”. But children are many times neither the only ones with a wish list nor the only ones who need to ask, “Have I been naughty or nice?”
As we mature in life and faith, we realize our deepest desires are never satisfied by trinkets or status. What we truly long for is a life with purpose in a world where justice and peace reign. Such a world God has promised to provide through his Son. We are invited to turn away from sin, which takes us away from God’s vision, and instead prepare a place for the coming of God’s son in our lives.
Advent is a time of hope, but it is also a time for the blessings for which we hope. This is where John the Baptist comes in. If we want to prepare ourselves, we have to listen to John. We can’t just take for granted that getting to heaven is an entitlement any more than the Jews could presume that they had it made just because they were Jews. John tells them in this week’s gospel, “…do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘we have Abraham for our father.’ John said God is looking for good fruits. Several times in Scripture, Jesus clarified what it means by “good fruits” by loving God and loving our neighbor.
The Church now takes up the cry of John the Baptist during the season of Advent and calls us “…to prepare the way of the Lord.” There are lots of preparations for gatherings with family and friends, preparations for giving gifts, preparations for parties etc. Lets not forget, the most important preparation of all, to prepare your heart to receive Our Lord and Savior with greater faith, hope and devotion than ever this Christmas. If you do that then this Christmas season should be pretty nice.
-Deacon Frank Iannarino