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The preaching of John the Baptist

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Mt 3:1-12

In those days 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.”

REFLECTION

LOVING JESUS: AN ADVENT SIGN OF CONTRADICTION. Advent reminds us that despite our characteristic navelgazing (concern only for family, defying the laws of society, nature, and God—to the detriment of others), God continues to extend his hands to us. In the First Reading, Isaiah already feels the impending danger before Israel: with the exploitation of the poor by the wealthy (cf Is 1:15-17; 5:8-10), the corruption of priests/ prophets (cf 5:11-17) and politicians (cf 5:18-21), and the foreign policy of having sought alliances with Egypt or Assyria, soon the people will suffer a tragedy that will reduce Israel to a felled tree: a devastating exile! But Isaiah proclaims a message of hope: that the Holiness of God will keep the faith of the people no matter how wayward they are. By presenting John the Baptist proclaiming Isaiah’s message of preparing the way of the Lord, the Gospel shows that John is the awaited Elijah whose return presages the coming of the Messiah (cf Mal 4:5). The Advent sign of contradiction is the loving Jesus who comes to dispel the darkness of our selfishness, to bring us to a life of communion as Jesus himself brings us back to God. The sign of the Shoot that buds from the stump of Jesse is first interpreted by the Jews as the community’s role to become a sign of hope to a devastated Israel. They know that they are not spared suffering as they, too, have been selfish for survival’s sake. But YHWH’s hesed, loving mercy, is so great that this peace (the kid among the ferocious animals or the baby’s hand on the adder’s lair) reigns in their lives and must be shared with other peoples, including the Gentiles.

SOURCE: “366 Days with the Lord 2016,” ST. PAULS Philippines, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: books@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.

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