Today’s readings can be found here.
Brothers and sisters, in our first reading from the prophet Isaiah, we hear of an idyllic world that will come when Christ comes again into our world. Isaiah describes that wolves and lambs, leopards and goats, calves and lions, cows and bears, babies and poisonous snakes will be live together in peace. Mortal enemies will be friends when Christ comes again to rule the Earth. There will be justice, peace, no harm, no ruin. It sounds like a pretty good thing to look forward to — we remember that this Season of Advent is not only about awaiting the coming of Jesus at Christmas, we also await his return at the end of time, judging and fully redeeming the very world we live in.
However, that redemption, the creation of a new Heaven and a new Earth, fully in keeping with that description of Isaiah and in the writings of St. Paul, while open to everyone, is not, sadly, going to be experienced by everyone. The promise is for the faithful, the ones who live the life of a Christian, the ones who, as John the Baptist said in today’s Gospel reading, produce good fruit as evidence of our repentance. And that is why John went off into the desert to preach — he wanted people to come and repent, so that they might be ready for the Lord’s coming, not just for Jesus’s earthly ministry that we have already encountered, but also for His Second Coming at the end of time.
John the Baptist was an aesthetic. He wore itchy clothes, he ate only lousy food, he went off by himself, lonely, and poor. He denied himself of good things (He was the son of Zechariah of the priestly class, and thus would have been somewhat well-off). He denied himself good things, for the sake of a greater thing — the proclamation of a baptism of repentance. And indeed, he did baptize. Today’s Gospel states that the people of “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.” Everyone was streaming out to see him in the desert. That must have been such a sight to see all of these people going out and humbling themselves. Would that we would do the same — we know we cannot be baptized again, but we do have the Sacraments of the Church that are provided for the same effect.
John said that we need to produce good fruit as evidence of our repentance. But, we cannot do so without God’s grace in our lives. That means doing those things I mentioned last week — prayer, worthily receiving the Eucharist, going to confession to make sure that our reception of the Eucharist is worthy, and practicing humility and denying ourselves, asceticism, that is, as did John the Baptist. If we do these things we will have no worries about the judgment of Christ either in our individual lives when we die or the judgment of the world at the end of time, because we will be one with him. If we do these things, we become more and more fruitful, we become more and more Christian. If we do these things we will transform the world with the love of Christ.