Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Bolton

Stay with us, Lord, on our journey

Cycle A

Second Sunday of Advent

Matthew 3:1-12

"Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight"

Advent is a call to preparation and today that call comes in the person of the uncomfortable figure of John the Baptist. John was a fearless preacher. His message to the whole of Israel was blunt: "Repent" – reform your lives – and be baptised as a sign of your intention to make a new start. His words were particularly severe against the Sadducees and Pharisees. Just being a member of the chosen race does not guarantee a place in the kingdom of God. Nor does pious fulfilment of religious ritual laws mean that a heart is open to God. John threatened them with harsh judgement by the one who is to come. 

 

Yes, John is an uncomfortable and discomforting figure, and yet all four gospels have him at the beginning of the story of Christ. The message from this is quite clear: if we want to come to the Christ, we must first come face to face with the Baptist. And where do we find him? In the wilderness, in the barren land where for forty years God had first shaped his chosen people. He was the voice crying out in the wilderness, and today he is still shouting loud into the wilderness of our lives: “prepare a way for the Lord; make his paths straight”. To prepare for the coming of the Lord into our lives, John has the same brief but demanding imperative: “Repent” – reform your lives.

 

It is a call to conversion, to a change of heart, and it is addressed to each one of us. The Baptist will not leave any of us in denial – there are areas of our lives that need to be changed if we are to live up to our baptismal vocation to be utterly one with Christ – there are parts of our own individual stories that need to be touched by the healing power of God’s forgiveness. True conversion is not something we can do for ourselves. Conversion happens when we allow the transforming grace of Christ to penetrate into every aspect of our lives. That is the call of Advent.