December 4, 2022: Second Sunday of Advent
Gospel: Matthew 3:1-12
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.”
Repent. The word literally means, “to turn around.” As I started to think about repentance, it occurred to me that it’s not a resolution; it’s a revolution. Literally. It made me reconsider the most challenging (to me) line in The Lord’s Prayer: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” As I understand it, we will be forgiven to the degree that we forgive. However, sometimes the person you need to forgive is yourself. “Doing a 180” involves changing your perspective, and that includes mercy for the person you used to be. I cringe when I think of mistakes I’ve made over the years. In some ways, I’m afraid to let them go. Self-punishment seems good for the soul. But that’s not what repentance is all about. Instead of dwelling on the past, we should use our “reorientation” to step forward in a new way. That’s how producing “good fruit” begins.
What is one area of your life that you’d like to change? Perhaps there’s a habit you’d like to break. Or maybe you’ve fallen into a pattern of reaction that only causes irritations to become full-fledged problems. This week, choose one action, emotion, response or behavior you’d like to change. Commit to one action that might nudge you along in this intention and focus on it. Start small, and great things will happen!