Getting ready for the reason for the season
In this week’s gospel, John the Baptist challenges us to re-think and re-form our lives. Our Advent preparation for the Lord’s coming invites a good, honest look at ourselves – owning up to what’s wrong in us, what’s not working, what’s just sitting there in the dark hoping not to be noticed.
Once we really acknowledge what’s dark in us, we’re already halfway toward healing. Facing the truth is humility in its best form, and it makes room for God to come and re-shape what’s still broken within us.
The repentance that John preaches is not an end in itself. Its focus is toward the future: He is coming! Prepare the way! Because we know the one whom we await and are well aware of what his coming will bring, our waiting involves becoming more like him.
If he is God’s peace, we are to prepare his coming by being makers of peace. So also, if Jesus is God’s wisdom and understanding, then all our dealings with one another are to be guided by God’s word rather than by the norms of Wall Street or Madison Avenue or Fox News.
The call of Advent pushes us beyond our incessant anxiety, cynicism and anger. We ask ourselves: how can I become a person of peace, integrity, love and responsibility? What can I do to eradicate injustice, vindictiveness and abusiveness in my personal relationships?
Just obeying the law and showing up for church – paying lip service to our Christian faith – is not enough. That’s what the religious leaders who approached John for his baptism were doing. They were going through the motions for the sake of appearances.
But their hearts and minds were far from the type of change that John was demanding. His challenge to them and to us: "Show me your good intentions in fruitful actions of goodness and love, not in empty words and half-hearted commitment."
What better way to get ready for the Lord’s coming: Acknowledge the truth about ourselves, seek the grace of God to help us work on it, open our arms and our hearts!
It’s the reason for the season.
Father Dennis Hanneman is a retired priest of the archdiocese living in Omaha. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.