Saturday, December 6, 2008

Think Again

(2nd Sunday of Advent, B)

“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God!”

So St. Mark begins his gospel, which we will be reading over the course of the coming year. “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.” And how does this gospel, this “good news” begin? It begins with the appearance of the Forerunner. This is John the Baptist, who fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that a cry of repentance will precede the appearance of the strong arm of God which will be the comfort of God’s people. We know that this arm with which God reaches out to us is our Lord Jesus Christ. And we know that the Comfort Isaiah prophesied is the coming of the Comforter himself, the Holy Spirit.

John the Baptist prepared the way for the Lord by proclaiming a “baptism of repentance.” This word we translate ‘repentance’ is one of the great New Testament terms—metanoia. It means, perhaps more literally, ‘to think again,’ ‘to have second thoughts,’ or even ‘to change your mind.’ Those who thought again and changed their minds received the baptism of John for the forgiveness of sins, and Jesus himself receives it on our behalf, with the humanity he had borrowed from us through our most Blessed Mother. Having repented through John’s baptism, the people were prepared to hear the good news of the arriving Kingdom of God.

As it was then, so it is now, as we prepare once again for the coming of the Lord. Each us is called to repentance, to have second thoughts about our selfish ways, to change our minds, bending them once again to God. Each of us is also called to the vocation of the Forerunner, to the work of John the Baptist. We are to proclaim the need for repentance, the need to think again, in the wilderness of the unbelief of our culture and the despair and depression of our secular society. By our own repentance we are to prepare a place for the Light from Light to be conceived anew in our own hearts. And by the proclamation of the coming Lord through how we live our lives, we cry out to the world around us its need to do the same.

We know well that the reward and the end of this work is the full baptism that Jesus brings, the baptism with the Holy Spirit which we have received in Christ. And our prayer and our hope during this Advent is that the whole world will be plunged into baptism with the Holy Spirit, that all creation might emerge as a full and complete Resurrection.

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