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.’ This was the man the prophet Isaiah spoke of when he said: A voice cries in the wilderness: Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight.
This man John wore a garment made of camel-hair with a leather belt round his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.
Then Jerusalem and all Judaea and the whole Jordan district made their way to him, and as they were baptised by him in the river Jordan they confessed their sins. But when he saw a number of Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism he said to them, ‘Brood of vipers, who warned you to fly from the retribution that is coming? But if you are repentant, produce the appropriate fruit, and do not presume to tell yourselves, “We have Abraham for our father,” because, I tell you, God can raise children for Abraham from these stones. Even now the axe is laid to the roots of the trees, so that any tree which fails to produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown on the fire. I baptise you in water for repentance, but the one who follows me is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to carry his sandals; he will baptise 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 the barn; but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out.’
The Gospel on the 2nd Sunday of Advent tells of the ministry of John the Baptist.
John assists those who come to him, to penitence and conversion, turning again to what is proper to them as members of the chosen People. assisting people to acknowledge their contrition for sin, baptising them, and helping them to embrace the good.
And he points beyond himself to the Christ, the one who is following him.
Our own use of Advent can make use of those same steps. We look to our own lives seeking to turn from any disorder or corruption. And we turn to Christ to learn the more that we are capable of.
John the Baptist. Gavarnie, France. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.