Read Isaiah 11:1-10, Ps. 72:1-2,7-8,12-13,17, Romans 15:4-9, Matthew 3:1-12

“John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 3:1-2)

Last Sunday, our readings presented some guidelines for a fruitful Advent; that it is a time to cast off the works of darkness, a time to forgive, reconcile and mend fences, and a time to be spiritually vigilant (increase in our prayerfulness). Today, the person and message of John the Baptist take center stage in our journey into Advent. John the Baptist warns against what could become of us if we fail to heed the call to repentance. Our lessons for today are quite straightforward:

1. Repentance has two dimensions

As John the Baptist puts it: “every tree, therefore, that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire…, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the granary but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire… bear fruit worthy of repentance.”

In other words, Repentance is not only a matter of avoiding sin; it is more importantly a matter of bearing fruits. If my life is a tree, what kind of fruits am I bearing? What impact is my life making in this world? Are my fruits worth gathering in a barn? How well do I make use of my talents? 

2. Repentance is Now or Never: Avoid Procrastination

Each time you hear of the death of someone close to you, it is a reminder that this world does not belong to any of us. Make the best of this moment. John the Baptist speaks in the present tense: “Even now, the axe is laid to the root of the trees… his winnowing fork is in his hand…” Meaning “now is the time; the harvest has begun already.” Live your life like someone who knows that death is just around the corner.

No time for hating others; love, forgive, share - help as many people as you can. Consider the words of St. Paul in today’s second reading: “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7)

3. Don’t be a Hypocrite

As people were drawing close to John the Baptist, there came the religious leaders of the day. John the Baptist referred to them as a brood of vipers! Jesus would, later on, throw more light on this when he said: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth.” (Matthew 23:27) 

In fact, when we read further in this passage, we hear Jesus use the same phrase as John the Baptist did: “You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell?” (Matthew 23:33). Am I more concerned about what people think about me than what God thinks about me? Is my Christianity just a matter of putting up appearances?

4. Repentance Begins with Self-Denial

As Matthew tells us: “John wore clothing of camel’s hair and with a leather belt around his waist and his food was locusts and wild honey.” John the Baptist’s dress and lifestyle point to his austerity. John the Baptist did not just preach with words, he preached with his very life. John the Baptist’s poverty was a means of pointing the hearts of the people toward the emptiness of this world and their grave need for God. Truly, no one can serve two masters.

5. It Takes Humility to Repent

John the Baptist did not allow his fame to get into his head. He said: “One who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals.” The first step to repentance is humility. It is the ability to look at myself and see the logs in my eyes, the ability to tell myself that even if others are praising me, I am nothing.

Pride makes us see ourselves as perfect human beings, next only to God; we cannot even examine our conscience or accept our faults, we point fingers blaming everyone else (even God) for making us do what we do. Proud people cannot repent because, for them, they are sinless. Like the Prodigal Son, we must first tell ourselves the truth in humility before we can return to our Father. 

Let us pray: Heavenly Father, change me completely for good. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (2nd Sunday of Advent. Bible Study: Isaiah 11:1-10, Ps. 72:1-2,7-8,12-13,17, Romans 15:4-9, Matthew 3:1-12)

© Rev. Fr. Evaristus Abu