who will prepare your way”
3 “a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’” 4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
In the whole Judean region the people nourished a hope that the Messiah would arrive. He – it was said – will transform the world: will remove the rich and powerful from their thrones, will destroy the evil doers and make the poor happy; he will put an end to the “old world” and will initiate a world and a humanity completely new.
The people in general kept on asking why, then, the Messiah is delaying so much his coming? And the Rabbis of the time would answer: “Because of the sins of Israel.” For as long as people continue their sinful lives, the Messiah cannot come.
John the Baptist then begins to preach by the Jordan River. He invites people to repent and speaks of a baptism of conversion; he insists that a community of people willing to change their lives be constituted. In this way road will be paved and the Messiah will surely show up and be manifested to the world.
Many people listen to the Baptist and come from all corners of Jerusalem and neighboring towns to receive his baptism. These are the people who long for changes. They are tired and sick of that society, that way of life full of evil and injustices.
Just like those people, we also realize that our contemporary world is full of intolerable situations and happenings. We also hope for change, for a new world, for a new order of things. And the question with which we have to confront ourselves is: What are we doing in order to favor the changes we wish to see in the world and in ourselves to take place? Can we expect that others will change, that others will convert when we ourselves do not want to change our bad habits, when we are not willing to renounce the things we do even when they are moved by selfish motives?
Can we continue demanding that the rich and powerful stop oppressing the weak and poor or stop being corrupt when we, on our part, are corrupt too in our day-to-day small dealings and also establish oppressive relationships in our communities, organizations and above all in our own families? Don’t we still nourish arrogant attitudes with our family members? Don’t we still feel the strong desire to dominate to the point that we become rude, insensitive, and offend precisely those whom we should be serving?
Thus, this Gospel could be speaking a lot, not to others, but much more directly then what we think to you and me. Unless we are the ones willing to change our ways, our attitudes, our life style, we have no moral authority to demand it from others; we should not even expect any messiah, any savior, any new world or new life. And if you do not have genuine hope for any of these, I have bad news for you: you are a dead body.
Let us pray that as we go through the journey of Advent we may be able of becoming aware of what is within us, within our relationships and within the structures of our society that is not compatible with the Kingdom of God. May we be courageous and strong enough to receive the baptism of John. Let us pray that we may become instruments in establishing a way of life that is compatible with the Gospel – with God!