Homily for Thursday of the 3rd Week of Advent
In our Gospel this morning Jesus poses a question to the crowd, asking them: “What did you go into the desert to see?” It’s actually a question that He asks them three separate times. I wonder if Jesus does that because He wants to not only affirm the crowd for heeding the message of the Baptist but to also recognize that He, Jesus, is the One that John was speaking about.
In many ways, the crowds were drawn to John the Baptist because of the message that he was offering. He was challenging people to wake up, to recognize their sinfulness. He wanted them to be aware of the ways that they were living and how those ways were contrary to the life of faith they were called to embrace. The message of repentance was urgent. John knew that the Messiah was coming; he knew that the day of salvation was at hand. He wanted the people to be prepared. That same sense of urgency is present in our own time.
Now, more than ever, we need to recognize our own sinfulness; we need to recognize the ways that we turn away from God and live lives according to our own wills rather than His will. We need to heed the message of the Baptist. The day of salvation could very well be at hand for us. True, we don’t know when Jesus will actually return. But we need to be prepared for that day. With things are going in the world, that day might be sooner than we think. We need to go out into the desert.
Every year during the season of Advent, the Church invites us to go out and see John. We need to make the trek out into the wilderness so that we can encounter the Lord. In the days leading up to Christmas, I encourage all of us to spend some time retreating from the world; spend some time in the desert. Reserve some time each day in silence with the Lord. Pray with the message of John the Baptist. Listen to what he is speaking to us. Repent. Believe in the Gospel. Jesus is coming soon and we need to be prepared for that day.
If Jesus were to come today, would He find us ready for Him? Would He find us to be people living the ways of the Gospel or would He find us people living our own lives? For the remainder of this holy season, let’s make sure that we’re on the right path, the path that ensures we are ready for the coming of the Lord.
Painting: Saint John the Baptist retiring to the Desert, Giovanni di Paolo. National Gallery, London. Wikicommons. Creative Commons License, Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0). Photo by: Sailko.