Serving the poor with love

4 December 2022 2nd Sunday, Advent Year A

John the Baptist was quite a celebrity around Jerusalem. People came from everywhere to see this strange man who lived on locusts and wild honey, dressed in camel hair, and preached the need for repentance. He even instituted a new ritual of baptism – pouring water on people’s heads – as a sign of forgiveness for those who confess their sins and genuinely seek a new way of life.


But John remained ever suspicious of people’s motives. So, on seeing a number of Sadducees and Pharisees coming for baptism, he questioned their motivation calling them a “brood of vipers”! John never attended that class on “How to win friends and influence people”! He was more interested in confronting people with their sins so they may change their ways. The fact that people continued to come to the river Jordan to hear John preach, they knew his message to be true.


While John did not tire from preaching his message of repentance, he was equally insistent on announcing the coming of the Messiah – the one who will “baptise with the Holy Spirit and fire” and pronounce judgment upon the world – separating the ‘good wheat’ from the ‘evil chaff’.


As John insisted, he was not worthy to carry the sandals of this promised messenger of God.


This promise of a coming divine messenger is also expressed in the prophecy of Isaiah who envisages a new beginning with a ruler-king blessed with wisdom, insight, compassion and fear of the Lord. He will inaugurate God’s reign by bringing judgment on the wicked and justice for the poor. The whole of creation will be transformed so that violence is replaced by harmony as in images of the wolf and lamb or calf and lion living and playing together!


In the real world where you and I live, God’s reign of justice, peace and harmony is evidently far from reality. So, how are we Christians to judge Jesus as the promised Messiah? Evidently, we need to concede that his ministry is incomplete. Furthermore, it is you and I, the disciples of Jesus, who are called upon to continue his ministry as we await the messianic completion of creation at the end-of-time.


Sometimes problems facing us and our world appear so big, we can easily despair. In today’s Letter to the Romans, we are told everything written in the scriptures teaches us “something about hope” so that, whatever life’s challenges, we know we will be “helped by God”.


In the words of Pope Francis: “Although the life of a person is in a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God”. Let us then heed the message of today’s readings by seeking God’s love and forgiveness as we prepare to celebrate the Christ-coming. And let us put this message into action through our loving service of the poor.


© Gerard Hall SM

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