By Fr. NOEL SEBETERO, SDB
04 December 2016
2nd Sunday of Advent

Isiah 11: 1-10              Romans 15: 4-9
Psalm 72                        Matthew 3: 1-12

Repentance is the radical conversion of the whole person to God, living the real and true self – free from all inconsistencies and hypocrisy.

A group of alumni, sixteen years after graduating from a Catholic high school, met together one evening at a private home for class reunion. Two priests, their former teachers, were present. The evening passed pleasantly, amid fond recollections of schooldays.

club-partyAt about 10: 30 pm, an offer was made to send the two priests back by car to the school. When the two priests left, the group transferred to an ill repute nightclub. Many of them ended up with prostitutes. Many wives thought that their class reunion was wholesome.

jaime-bulataoFr. Jaime Bulatao, SJ, wrote an enlightening essay on split-level Christianity. This essay may still bear a powerful message for us on how to live an integral faith experience. Apparently, the Church has failed in her role as the voice due to some factors, especially ineptitude to reform herself.

It may seem to be a paradox, or worse a hypocrisy.

Fr. Bulatao describes this as the co-existence within the same person of two or more thoughts – and behavior systems which are inconsistent with each other. At one level, the split-leveled person professes allegiance to ideas, attitudes and ways of behaving; at another level he holds convictions which are more properly his “own.” What is worst is the fact that split leveling involves the absence of a sense of guilt.

st-john-the-baptistThe Gospel presents a powerfully evocative Advent figure: John the Baptist, an intensely ascetic holy man. Living in the wilderness of Judah, he prepared the people for the coming of Christ. He ushered them to the saving call of conversion.

Matthew declares him as “a voice crying out in the desert, Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. With his prophetic and fiery cry, he invites us to repentance for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

phariseesTo the Pharisees and Sadducees whom he saw coming to his baptism, he told them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.”

Repentance is the radical conversion of the whole person to God, living the real and true self – free from all inconsistencies and hypocrisy.

“Open up paths to God, come back to Jesus, welcome the Gospel. Some are hoping for and are asking of me reforms in the Church, and so it should be. But above all it’s necessary to have a change of attitude.” (Pope Francis)

John the Baptist opens for us two paths.

A Path of a Radical Life

“John wore clothing made of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist.”

john-the-baptistMatthew depicts him in terms of the Old Testament prophet Elijah. His clothing being similar to that of Elijah (2 Kings 1: 8) suggests that John is the returning Elijah who would prepare the way of the Lord.

Like Elijah his life is consistent with his message. His ritual’s baptism is a symbolic act calling people to acknowledge their sins. Being immersed in the baptismal waters means bearing fruits in good deeds.

A Path of a Desert Experience

“John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea.”

john-the-baptist-in-the-desert-preachingA desert is a place of test and formation. It is not necessarily geographical. It may be a condition where we encounter God. It is a path of silence and solitude; prayer and interiority. “You can be solitary in your mind even when you live in the middle of the crowd.” (Amma Syncletica)

“Desert is a place of simplicity and poverty, where everything is stripped down to the basics. A place where distractions are eliminated. Both of those are important because only when you eliminate distractions and attachments can we hear the voice of God.” (Robert Barron)

We go into the desert: for a total confrontation with ourselves; to see more and see better; to take a closer look at the things we would rather avoid; to answer questions we would rather forget.

resentment

“We go into the desert to confront the false self, the false image that we have of ourselves. So there is a painful process of confronting the shadowy areas in our life – the sinfulness, the ingratitude, the ineptitude, the failures of the past, the long held resentments about things – being honest about those things. And for this to happen, one has to travel down into one’s interior. But unless we do it, then we will always be alienated from our true selves. We will never be completely at peace.” (Ronan Kilgannon)

John the Baptist will be constantly summoning us to conversion; such will be his basic role and the image we will rightly have of him. The moment we will go through the discipline of Advent, we will know the joy and peace of Christmas.

christmas-peace

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