Getting ourselves ready for the Messiah

John’s message interrupts the circumstances of our life. His message disrupts the patterns and habits of our life within our family, social circumstances, business transactions, and consumer activities.

Dec 02, 2022

Reflecting on our Sunday Readings with Fr Joseph Lubula

About this time every year we begin to hear and ask a common question, “Are you ready for Christmas?” For some, that question is answered with great anticipation about the coming of Jesus, the joy of spending time with family and friends, or the excitement of feasts, parties, gifts, and time off work. For others, that question is answered with sadness and grief. It is a reminder of how this year will be different, a reminder of the past year’s sorrows and losses. For many, that question speaks to busyness, shopping, decorating, travel, cooking, cleaning — the chaos of getting it all done.

Regardless of how you answer that question, whether you fit in one of those categories, or offer your own unique answer, that question speaks of a particular day of the year.

So every year at this time, the second Sunday of Advent, the Church asks us to hear John the Baptist. Whether it is from Matthew, Mark, or Luke, on this day we hear the voice of one crying out in the wilderness. John does not, however, speak of a particular day. He speaks of a particular way — “the way of the Lord.” He does not speak about getting things ready. Instead, he speaks about getting ourselves ready.

John’s message interrupts the circumstances of our life. His message disrupts the patterns and habits of our life within our family, social circumstances, business transactions, and consumer activities. John’s message is always a message of hope and promise. The word of God comes in every time, place and circumstance, offering a new way, a new life, a new world.

My guess is that most of us don’t want to hear messages like John’s. We’re pretty content with our lives and the world.

Maybe we’re overwhelmed and feel powerless to do anything. Maybe we’re just too tired and too busy to make a change.

Maybe we’ve been hurt or disappointed so many times that we’ve become indifferent or cynical. Maybe we’re so distracted or overcommitted that we’ve lost sight that “there is need of only one thing” (Luke 10:42). Maybe we feel stuck and paralysed to do anything different from what we are already doing.

We find a way to manage our lives that, at least on the surface, is working. We learn how to “play the game” and sometimes even win. We become comfortable, maybe even comfortably numb, and we don’t want John or anyone else messing with our life, our plans, our system.

John’s kind of preaching, that kind of message, gives us a lot of reasons to turn away. It’s a hard message to hear. It holds before us things about ourselves we often do not want to see or deal with. It’s challenging, critical, and uncomfortable. And yet, today’s Gospel (Matthew 3:1-12) says that the people of Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region along the Jordan were going out to hear him. Even the religious authorities, the Pharisees and Sadducees. Why?
Why would we ever want to hear a message like John’s? What is he really offering us?

I wonder if there’s something in us that wants, maybe even needs, to hear John’s message.

If I am really honest with myself, I can see and name the cracks in the veneer of my life. I know when my life is out of balance. I recognise the ways in which I resist others and struggle with certain relationships. I contradict myself. I often betray myself and my own integrity. I can see patterns and habits that are not helpful to me or others and yet I continue to do them. Sometimes I’m afraid and don’t want to face my life.

It’s easy to begin to believe that’s just how it is and how it will always be. That’s just me. That’s my life. And I settle for what is rather than what might be. I turn away from my future ensuring that what’s always been will continue to be. Maybe you’ve done that too.

That’s when I need to hear John the Baptist. I don’t so much need him to tell me that I need to change (I usually know that and sometimes I even want that); I need him to remind me that I can change, that life can be different. I need to hear a message of hope and possibility. That’s what Advent is about – hope, possibilities, the future. Don’t you sometimes need to be reminded of that?

We can change. Life can be different. That’s the message of John the Baptist. It’s the first thing he says in today’s Gospel, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Repentance gives us a future. It invites, calls for, and solicits a change — a response from us.

It doesn’t have to be huge, or fix everything. It’s not a once and for all thing. Repentance is a way of life. We repent our way through life. We repent our way into wholeness. What would that look like for you today? How will you begin?

One change. A new start. A future. That’s Advent and Advent promises that something is coming. Repent, not because you’re bad, but because you are worth it.

(Fr Joseph Lubula is a clergy of the Diocese of Lugazi in Uganda.)

Total Comments:0