JTB and a Call from the Desert
"Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight" (Matt 3:3). John the Baptist preached and provided a cleansing bath of repentance. He is the Elijah Isaiah prophesied was going to come to prepare the way for the Messiah, the Messiah who will establish the kingdom of heaven. John the Baptist's baptism of repentance was to clear the path for the entrance of the Lord of Lords into the hearts of the people of Israel. Repentance is a significant factor in establishing God's reign in our lives. To prepare for the access of Jesus into our lives and to make his path straight and smooth, we need to repent and show signs of repentance. What does repentance consist of? What does it mean to repent?
When John the Baptist announced the coming of the Lord in the desert, the people of Israel had waited for generations; he offered an opening to a life of grace. By inviting them to receive the baptism of repentance, he quickly added that his baptism was different and lesser than the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire that Jesus was coming to grant the people. Yet, in the baptism of John the Baptist, we get a clear idea of the importance of changing our way of seeing the world. Anyone preparing as they await the coming of Jesus and his kingdom into their lives must first have a modified or altered perspective on life. Such change is what repentance entails and consists of. The Greek word used in the New Testament is metanoia. It means "beyond the perception of the mind. "In a fuller sense, metanoia (repentance) encompasses many things: a change of mind or heart or a new way of seeing, thinking or looking at life, an embrace of a different set of values and attitude, a transformation of consciousness. Advent is an ideal time to go to the desert and experience repentance.
The desert experience is necessary for preparation for repentance. We are waiting for God's kingdom's arrival in our lives and the world through it. According to spiritual writer Alan Jones, in his book, Soul Making, the desert is more than a place. The desert is an experience of solitude, conversion, and transformation. It demands a response that leads to revelation and revolution in the spiritual sense. In the silence and stillness of the desert, you will experience a total confrontation with yourself, a closer look at things and people, face situations one would rather avoid, and answer questions one would rather forget. John the Baptist invites us to the desert experience. Could you find the time and place to be still and wait in silence? I can guarantee you that by entering into the spiritual desert, you will find a need to confess your sins (Matt 3:6). "Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," (Rom 3:23) as St Paul reminds us, we all need to "repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near" (Matt 3:2).
If you have not gone to sacramental confession in a year, you should go as soon as possible. If you have not approached the Sacrament of reconciliation in months or weeks, you need to have the desert experience, receive sacramental absolution and emerge a "born-again" catholic. Please save the date for our parish penitential service-Friday, December 16, at 7 p.m.
In Hope and Love,
Fr. Bernard, OP