In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’”
Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “
I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
Let’s really prepare ourselves well for this Christmas. Let’s clean up our hearts–our interior homes–and put everything in order once and for all. Let’s clean out all the dust and dirt from the forgotten corners, or the ones that we’d like to forget. So that when Jesus does come, we can open the door of our hearts and–with just pride–show the Lord the home we have prepared for him to enter and live in, a home worthy of so eminent a guest as Jesus.
Why don’t we really do it, this year?
Because we can’t. How many years have we tried and failed to clean out the muck and make that perfect home for Jesus to dwell in? We simply can’t do it. It’s beyond our strength. And even if we could, Jesus would pass by our interior palaces to be born in another place. Because he wasn’t born in a palace but in a stable, where the animals smell bad and their manure worse.
When the Messiah comes, says the psalmist, he shall rescue the poor when he cries out, and the afflicted when he has no one to help him. He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor; the lives of the poor he shall save.
Do we consider ourselves among the poor? Are we afflicted? Do we feel the need for someone to come and save our lives? Because it is to those people that Jesus comes: to people who know their poverty before God and, with hope, open the door to the Lord who knocks.
—Fr. Tim Howe, SJ, is president of St. Xavier High School, in Cincinnati, OH.
Life-giving God, the day draws near when the glory of your Son will make radiant the night of the waiting world. May the lure of greed not impede us from the joy which moves the hearts of those who seek him. May the darkness not blind us to the vision of wisdom which fills the minds of those who find him. Hear us, Lord our God!