On the Gospel of Matthew 24:37-44
Second Sunday of Advent
As the cities glow with glistening lights and our streets and shops fill with images of festive feasts and feel-good gifts each offering their own brand of ‘holiday happiness,’ it’s all too easy to slip into an easy-going superficiality at this busy time of year. Strikingly, like some fabled Old Testament Prophet stepping out from the mists of time, St. John the Baptist strides across our path in this Sunday’s Gospel. His cry is a call to each of us; to confront ourselves and our salvation and the hope and joy that truly is the coming of our Saviour into the world.
Advent is a time of action, for rediscovering our Christian vocation. Like the Baptist, we are called to live lives of faith – to follow Jesus earnestly and seriously and thereby find the true peace of this Season that He alone can give. This Yes to God is the Yes to Holiness, as St. Paul says “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world that we should be Holy.” This is the root of our very being and the challenge of a lifetime! The lures of the world through pride, sensuality and self-love draw us constantly away from God, to a world that never fully satisifies. Those crowds jostling around St John today reveal that deep human need in each of us that only God can satisfy. We are being called to turn back to Christ and to the recognition of our need of Him. Asking Him to forgive our blindness and ingratitude with the humble confrontation of ourselves in the Confessional is the ever open door of our conversion. Christ is ever-ready to set our hearts free so we can experience that Joy of being at peace with our Creator.
The arrogant Pharisees come in for some fairly severe criticism in this Gospel. Christ found in them a self-sufficiency that blinded them to His presence and prevented Him from entering into their lives. Glued to earthly things, we ourselves are often blind to the supernatural reality of the world around us. We are being called to stop thinking about our own desires and ego and allow the responsibility to help others grow – to become a people producing good fruit. Through prayer (talking to God in the quiet of our being), small acts of self-sacrifice and especially in that pivotal encounter with Christ in the sacraments and Scripture we grow closer to Him; it is this union that yields the life of faith and good works that saves and makes us more fully what we were created to be.
Advent is ultimately a time for Hope. We are presented with two paths; one of pride, sensuality and boredom, the other, that of love, commitment, human sacrifice and joy – we have to choose. We are called to “Look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand” (Lk 21:28) – we must not get distracted with lesser goals. That great promise of our salvation and happiness at the heart of our Christian vocation demands a unity of life built on the presence of God our Father and borne out in the reality of our daily work. The God who can “raise children of Abraham from these stones” wants and wills each of us to be saved. That creator of all you’ve ever known and loved, wants to come to you anew this Christmas – it’s up to you this Advent to prepare a way for Him – make straight His path to your heart!
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”
John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
– Matthew 24:37-44