2nd SUNDAY OF ADVENT (MT. 3: 1-12)
“In due course, John the Baptist appeared; he preached in the wilderness of Judaea, and this was his message: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand’”.
It is interesting that John, son of Zechariah, chose in his early adulthood, not to become a priest of the temple like his father, but rather to go out into the wilderness, in the manner of the Essenes, to wait for the coming of the Messiah. Edward Schillebeeckx suggests that in following this line, John was being drawn into a “wilderness spirituality” rather than a “temple spirituality”.
Both John’s life-style and his message were in accordance with this wilderness spirituality. He wore a garment of camel-hair, with a rough leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts, and honey cached in combs in the rocks. He lived far removed from the hustle and bustle of the city. His way of life obviously cut across that of the majority of his contemporaries including the Sadducees and the Pharisees. Nevertheless, he captured the imagination of the crowds who came out into the wilderness not only to see him, but also to confess their sins and be baptized by him.
It is obvious however that John had no intention of initiating a mass movement out into the wilderness. Rather, he was calling the people into a place or state of ’metanoia’ where they would be reconciled both with God and with their neighbour. The 1st reading for today from the prophet Isaiah (11: 1-10) describes some of the characteristics of this state of reconciliation: not judging by appearances, giving no verdict on hearsay, treating the wretched with integrity, giving a ruling in favour of the poor, being people of integrity and faithfulness who live in harmony with one another and with all creation. And the 2nd reading from Paul’s Letter to the Romans (15:4-9) adds to this list by urging us to be tolerant with one another and to treat each other in the same friendly way that Christ treats us.
We are invited during this Advent to translate these healing and transforming characteristics of the presence of God’s kingdom into our daily living.
It is worthwhile noting that the wilderness in which John was preaching wasn’t essentially a geographical desert – after all, he was in the vicinity of the Jordan with its abundant flowing water. Rather, it was a place of solitude, poverty, uncertainty, seeking, waiting. Haven’t we each our personal situation of wilderness – be it grief, anxiety, fear, loneliness, loss, ill-health, emptiness, pain? Whatever it is, can we this Advent stretch out from this wilderness-place, in longing and hope that the kingdom of God will be more manifest in our lives and in our world?
Sr. Mary O’Driscoll OP