By Father Andrew Kelly
Every Advent John the Baptizer starts shouting out all sorts of nonsense about the kingdom of God and the unending need for constant conversion and reformation.
Understandably believers take offense: “We are baptized. We, when convenient, gather for the body and blood. We donate money to keep the system going. Why would we even have to listen to the harsh words of John the Baptizer?”
John the Baptizer answers in Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 3:1-12): “Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor;’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.”
What are the “fruit worthy of repentance?” Probably when the community quits thinking about itself and really begins to empty itself of all pretense and presumption. The community’s energy and resources become available for the sake of others.
Notice in Matthew’s Gospel that both John and Jesus’ message is the same: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
The simple Advent message is that if there is no repentance and conversion, there is no salvation no matter how routinely the community gathers for the Scriptures, body and blood.
(Father Andrew Kelly is pastor of St. Mary Parish in Mechanicsville.)