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During this season of Advent, as we prepare to renew in our memory the birth of our Savior, we know we are in the midst of a painful period of our time when thousands of our people are in grief because of what has happened to them in the recent tragedies. As wars still continue, and as lives are being lost, mourning and weeping continue in our land and in other places.

It is in the midst of these feelings of grief and shock that we hear one of the great of prophets speaking to us about a time when the whole universe is dancing with joy because of the arrival of a new kingdom, of a new leader. Isaiah was speaking at a time when the people of his time were experiencing great shock and fear because of the invading forces of the Assyrian emperor who came to the borders of Israel.

We know those words of the prophet were a telescopic vision of the times that would come with Jesus.

Jesus offered that vision thousands of years later to the people of Israel and to the whole world: “Blessed are those who are poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn and weep and they will be consoled and blessed are the peacemakers they will be called the sons of God.”

It is a vision and a way of life that comes not with territorial expansion, with conquest, nor from an aggressive pursuit of riches, glory or power but from a change of heart, from a deep rooted conversion in the depths of one’s being. It is when we look at people around us and see them not as rivals or as subjects to be to exploited ,or subjugated but as brothers and sisters, children of the same family , of the same father in heaven that the vision becomes realized.

That call to repentance is very powerfully given by John the Baptist in today’s Gospel. He knows the hypocrisy that is in the heart of people. He doesn’t hesitate to reveal their hidden motives, their cruelty, their vengeance and their ways of deception. He calls them even as they come to him for baptism : “ You brood of vipers…Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance….Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” He urges them to repent and to be ready to receive the kingdom of heaven that is at hand.”

John did not receive any of their possessions or their gifts. He wore the gifts of nature—camel’s hair and his food was locusts and honey. It is from the pulpit of this total detachment , of poverty , of self-denial that this great prophet speaks to his people. No desire for glory, no ambition in life… only desire is to prepare the way, to make people happy and to draw them out of their smugness, their selfishness and to inflame them with the fire of love .

Even as we experience sorrow, suffering, grief in our lives, John the Baptist is asking us to rise from the stupor of disillusionment or of indifference and to walk towards Jesus Our Lord whose radiance will illuminate the dark recesses of our hearts and dry away every tear from our lives.

Today we can make those initial, faltering steps towards that full vision by repenting of our sins, avoiding those occasions that lead us away from him. We shall look at our own hearts and see what is hindering us from a close union with Jesus and the people around us.

If it is our selfishness, arrogance, our inordinate desires that creates this hindrance to full union, this is the time for us to make a change in our attitudes, thoughts and feelings. It is only when we come close to John the Baptist, to his pulpit of detachment, of self-renunciation, that we can experience the presence of Jesus in our lives. May this Advent help us to come closer to Jesus through our repentance, forgiveness, love and caring.


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