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2nd Sunday of Advent – Listening with an Untainted Heart


repentance“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. 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’” (Matthew 3:1-8; 10b-11).
 
A lucrative position that has emerged in our modern economy is that of consultant. We try to drastically improve our prospects by soliciting advice from someone who seems to see more deeply, more clearly than we do. Consultants always appear superb in manner, dress, and expression. They radiate power and trust. When we dread the unknown, we pay consultants well to forge ahead of us, paving the way.
 
The wild man we meet in the gospel reading today is deliberately pictured by Matthew in a way that his listeners would recognize: clothed in rags and eating bugs—code for “this is a prophet.”
 
Deliberately abrasive, difficult, and unnerving, John is someone whose very abrasiveness might threaten the message he wishes to convey. He does not “consult” his followers on how to understand their lives. He exhorts, extols, and reminds his followers of service. An ancient voice cries in the wilderness, stirring our pity, igniting our sense of duty. But to hear the voice is not enough; we need to hear with a heart untainted by selfishness, motivated by truth, and purified by repentance.
 
Each of us must struggle to see beyond the medium to the message and ask, Is this truly the Spirit of God speaking to me?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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