In order to understand today’s gospel, we have to look at the time. John the Baptist is a prophet. He was a mystic who was focused on serving God. However, he was pointing to the expected moment in which the Messiah was coming. This is something that the Jews waited for since the time of Moses. He understood that the Messiah coming was a radical change and called the people to repent to turn back to their faith for something would happen that would change their nation’s life radically.
We recognize this as the coming of the promised Messiah, but you also have to realize His coming brings a radical change on every level of Jewish life. Therefore, St. John the Baptist is warning the people to prepare for him by repenting from their sins and renewing their commitment to God. For their whole society would be shaken to its core.
So, in the background we can create a huge clock. Imagine that from the time St John the Baptist arrives on the scene this huge clock begins to count down and it is counting down forty years. When the clock reaches zero there will indeed be a cataclysmic change to Jewish life and which spreads to the whole world.
It is at that point that the Romans will come into the nation of Judah and wipe the nation off the map and destroy the center of Jewish liturgical life, which is the temple.
The Jewish nation as a political territory will not exist again until 1948 and the temple to this day was not rebuilt.
So John the Baptist is not kidding, not only is he announcing the coming of Jesus, but he is warning of a cataclysmic change both of which take place.
Who is John the Baptist today? We as Church are and our message is the same to ourselves and those around us: “Prepare the way of the Lord.” for the Lord is coming.
The world is always in flux and even if Jesus does not come back tomorrow, our world can change radically any minute. A job loss, a disease, or even more global, a political change even an outbreak of war can radically change our world drastically. Are we ready to live through a cataclysmic change in our life, even if it does not mean the Lord returns tomorrow.
This is the mission of the Church to proclaim to the world the coming of Christ. Just as the Hebrew lived for many centuries waiting for what was prophesied and did happen, so are we living in a time where we are proclaiming what will happen and indeed it will.
Our faithfulness is what proclaims this truth.
So just as John the Baptist proclaimed the truth so too must we. We must do it with our lives. There are many who will tell you that the need is greater than in any other time, that clearly the signs are there that a great cataclysmic change is at hand. Is that true? Only time will tell. However, our mission to live the faith is even more essential than maybe in past years.
Throughout the world on this day, Catholics hear the call to repent of anything that separates them from Christ to turn from Sin and to turn back to the path to holiness. The reason is simple, you and I as members of the Catholic Church have the call to be prophets speaking for the Lord and we do that through our lives. If we do not do this, then who will.
Every situation in which we find ourselves is a moment to live the gospel and when we live the gospel, we are acting as Christ called us to act: as prophets. Even when things go wrong drastically wrong.
Pope Paul VI addressing the severe persecution of Catholics in Atheist countries cited that even when they are silent and suffering, their silent suffering “becomes the mouthpiece of an oppressed and degraded society, deprived by its rulers of every spiritual right.” and becomes like the words of St. John the Baptist “A voice crying out in the wilderness.”
Our call is to remain faithful and even in the most drastic situations our faithfulness is prophetic to a generation that has lost its ability to hear Christ. Therefore, our persistence even in doing something as simple as attending Sunday mass becomes a powerful call to every generation.
There is nothing we can do to stop this except to quit ourselves.
Therefore, you and I have this powerful mission that involves taking serious our baptismal call to live the gospel because when we do this, the Holy Spirit transforms every one of our actions, no matter how slight, to a powerful prophetic call to those around us to themselves prepare the way of the Lord in their lives. For the world is always in a state of flux and everything can change at any moment.
If we can see what is at stake, then we realize that we need to be actively involved in the solution. It means we need to fully understand and embrace our faith. This means we need to understand our faith and live in the wisdom that it brings to us.
Take the Eucharist as an example: coming forward to receive the Eucharist is as radical an act as coming forward to receive John’s baptism in His time. That simple act was a public commitment to a repentance of sin and choice to be more faithful to the teachings of the Jewish faith.
When we receive the Eucharist it is likewise a public acknowledgement of receiving the Body and Blood of Christ and a commitment to live the Gospel in a way that speaks to those around us in our home, neighborhood, work, etc. that Christ has died, Christ is risen and Christ will come again.
This means that our action is as powerful and pointed as the message of John the Baptist.
John was intensely serious about his message to others. So too must we be.
We can easily take for granted our vocation as baptized, confirmed Catholics. We can easily forget the awesomeness of what we do here. So it is always time to recommit to our message of living the Gospel.