We are called to live Advent as mission. When we think of John the Baptist, we think of somebody who spent himself for the sake of another. This was a frightening concept for the men of his time, just as it can be a frightening concept for us. Who was the arch-nemesis of John? It was Herod. Herod ended up putting him to death. For us too, it can be frightening when somebody is asking us for real change and conversion. We do not feel comfortable with change. We want to be able to dedicate ourselves to rest and relaxation. A figure like John would be most unwelcome in our society.
John Prepared the Way
But what did John do? He prepared the way for Jesus. On the second Sunday of Advent, the liturgy invites us to contemplate John the Baptist. He is a good example of someone who prepares the way for the Lord. If we are going to prepare his way, we must be like light. We must show the way. We must lead other people to him. John had no qualms about sending his disciples to Jesus. We should never allow our own desire for attention and popularity to pull our support away from Jesus.
“Fear not to cry out and say to the cities of Judah: Here is your God! Here comes with power the Lord GOD” (Is. 40:9) How often does fear influence the way we live our faith? Jesus does not want us to live in fear. He wants us to overcome our fear. Perfect love drives out fear. (cf. 1Jn. 4:18)
The main means that John used was baptism. Now, it was not yet the sacrament of baptism. Even in this passage, we hear how Jesus refers to the baptism of the Holy Spirit as being greater than his own. Baptism calls to mind Advent in a special way through the baptismal candle. We receive a candle that is lit from the Paschal Candle. The Paschal Candle represents Christ. Christ is the Light of the World.
John the Baptist reminds us that Christ is coming. He prepares the way. Then, John baptizes.
Christ is coming
We are called to remind our world that Christ is coming. We can get so caught up in “Christmas decorations” and “Christmas celebrations” that have nothing to do with Christ. This gives us a wonderful opportunity to give witness to others. I remember one woman who always set up a beautiful Nativity scene in her home. It was one of her more passionate hobbies. Whenever she traveled, she would be on the lookout for little pieces and figurines that could help her continue to improve her home Nativity. Imagine going through an amusement park or a mall, and instead of finding just another Santa scene, finding a life-size Nativity. We will never know how much good we do through the quiet witness of living out our faith with conviction.
John Proclaims Christ
One thing that I love about John is that he seems to be a tough guy. When his regular diet and clothing are described, I just get the feeling that I could never have pulled off everything that he did. He was a one tough guy. We should learn from him that no sacrifice is too great if it is going to unite us to Christ.
What are some of the tough things in our world? Maybe we would be misled to worry so much about eating locusts or dressing in animal skins. But it can be just as itchy to stand up for the faith in difficult situations. It seems that it does not matter if we are with friends, with family, or at work. There is a hyper-sensitivity out there that makes standing up for the truth quite uncomfortable. Speaking always from a place of love and compassion, our standing up for the truth may be precisely the preparation that somebody needs to receive eventually the message of salvation that can come only from Christ.
The entire existence of the Forerunner of Jesus was nourished by his relationship with God, particularly the period he spent in desert regions (cf. Lk 1:80). The desert regions are places of temptation but also where man acquires a sense of his own poverty because once deprived of material support and security, he understands that the only steadfast reference point is God himself. John the Baptist, however, is not only a man of prayer, in permanent contact with God, but also a guide in this relationship. (Pope Benedict XVI, 29 August 2012)
We want to live Advent as Mission!
John does not stay forever in preaching and his witness. He wants real results. Too often, I think we have a Church that is willing to be ambiguous. But sometimes, we have to get down to brass tacks. We must make sure that the truth is really breaking through the barriers of disbelief and ignorance. We must learn to guide others effectively. This is part of our mission during this Advent. Try before Christmas, to bring one person back to Church. Live Advent as Mission!