2nd Sunday of Advent
December 9, 2007
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!
This basic, simple message comes to us loudly and clearly every Advent. John the Baptist, the prophet of the messiah, says clearly to the people that they must repent. The messiah is coming. He will come to judge – gathering the wheat into the barn – and burning the chaff with unquenchable fire.
Notice the responses of the people.
The good response, which many participated in, was to acknowledge their sins and then be baptized by John in the river.
Notice the example of John in this passage. John symbolized doing penance. First, notice how he fasted. His diet during this time consisted of – locusts and wild honey.
Think about it. How many here would like to go on a special fast where the only food you ate was bugs and honey. Notice what he wore. Camel’s hair.
As a member of a priestly family, he had access to clothes and was heir to his father’s place as a priest in the temple in Jerusalem. Priests wore good clothes.
John wore itchy camel hair. John did penance and he fasted.
Notice who gives the wrong response to John’s message. The Pharisees and Saducees. They refused to acknowledge sin. They refused the baptism of John. They refused penance and fasting. And so John warned them that judgement was coming.
Add all this up and it is a very strong message. Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Repent is an interesting word. It comes from the latin “pentare” – which means “to think.” Put the prefix “re” in front of it and we get the English word “repent.” Literally it means –re-think.
And isn’t that the issue – that we need to “re-think” our lives. To get out of our heads the wrong thinking that brings us to sin. To get into our heads the right way of thinking so that we practice virtue.
Last week we heard the message – stay awake. Be prepared.
This week we hear the message – repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.
We need to hear this message at this time of year.
Did you hear the examples that John gives of what is coming?
The axe and the tree. The ax lies at the root of the tree. Those that do not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
The winnowing fan. He clears his threshing floor and gather the wheat into the barn. But the chaff will be burned.
All of this adds up to some serious stuff.
Stay awake. Be Prepared. Repent. The kingdom of God is at hand.
During Advent we make ourselves conscious of the first coming of Christ at the incarnation in Bethlehem. What a sweet event. Christmas.
During Advent we also make ourselves conscious of the second coming of Christ in glory. Remember what we acclaim during the Eucharistic prayer. Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life. Lord Jesus come in glory.
Jesus is coming again soon. He will come again to this earth in glory. And maybe we are living in the last days. Maybe it will be this year. Or next year. Or in the next ten. Who knows.
I do know one thing. I guarantee that he will come again for every person in this room within 120 years. And for a lot of us it is going to be a lot sooner than that. Count the days and months and years. Jesus is coming. Stay awake. Be Prepared. Repent. The kingdom of God is at hand.
So what are we supposed to do?
Well, I just happen to have some ideas from scripture.
Do what John did to prepare. Penances. He wore camel hair and ate bugs and honey. Anybody game for that? Too severe for you? Think it through. A penance is designed to help us remember the way in which our minds need to be changed. John needed to be focused on his mission and courageous enough to stand up to the Pharisees and to Herod. He had to avoid pandering and political correctness. Camel’s hair, bugs, and honey helped him do that. What will help each of us to avoid our particular temptations and to focus on our mission? Figure it out. Do penance.
Do what St. Paul suggests. Here are two ideas from him:
He mentions the “encouragement of scriptures”. Read the scripture so that you can be encouraged in hope. Simple. But the bible helps us to change our way of thinking. Get more of it in your head. Read the scriptures.
He also mentions this: “welcome one another as Christ welcomed you.” There is nothing like the practice of Christian hospitality in preparation for Christmas. Remember that when you get caught in a traffic jam in front of Mall St. Matthews. Welcome one another as Christ welcomes you.
While all of this may sound a little severe, just remember this. These acts of faith. Penance, Reading the bible. Christian hospitality. All help us to focus on the kingdom of God which is among us now and which is prepared for us for all eternity. A kingdom of justice and faithfulness. A kingdom of peace and love. A kingdom of eternal glory. It is here. And it is coming.
So…Stay awake. Be Prepared. Repent. For the kingdom of heaven it at hand.