The challenge of the Baptist

In the Gospel of Mark two days after the Second Day of Advent, John the Baptist personifies repentance and reparation for Christ’s coming. John is preaching in the desert to prepare the way of the Lord. It was him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken: A voice of one crying out in the desert. Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins. Indeed several centuries before the coming of Christ. Isaiah had foretold the coming of a forerunner, a “the voice of one that crieth,” indeed, of him who would “prepare in the wilderness the way of Jehovah,” and “make level in the desert a highway for our God.”

John is described as wearing clothing made of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist. His food were locusts and wild honey. His demeanor and appearance was a bold relief to the wealthy, indulgent Jews of his day. He was, what you might call, a veritable walking sermon.

Before the birth of Christ, the Jews were under the oppressive Roman rule who put Herod, a non-Jew as their king. The Jews, as foretold, were expecting a messiah who would free them from the yoke of Roman oppression. But how the Jews were so mistaken about the messiah that John was preaching about. The messiah in their midst was one who would not liberate them from foreign rule but who would bring salvation and free all mankind from the clutches and slavery of sin.

The culmination of John’s short ministry was meeting with Jesus and baptizing Him. He also sent some of his own followers to join the Jesus movement. Through him, Andrew and his brother Peter, and Philip and Nathanael became apostles.

John’s message cut into the very hearts of men. John denounced evil wherever he found it. He accused Herod of living a loose moral life, addressed the Scribes and the Pharisees as “brood of vipers,” and summoned people to righteousness. His message was “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.”

John urged the tax collectors to “stop collecting more than what is prescribed,” and told the soldiers to “stop extortion and false accusation and remain satisfied with their wages.” In short, John’s message was a call for radical conversion, willingness to suffer self-denial and offering himself as an oblation of unconditional love.

A true follower of Christ is willing to follow the example of John the Baptist, courageous and never fearful of denouncing evil wherever they may be found. He is not inclined to remain apathetic, indifferent and disinterested in the suffering of other people but is more than willing to declare a wrong for what it is and is always willing extend a helping hand to the less fortunate.

We need not go far to see how our society has descended into moral and physical degeneracy. Criminality, abject poverty, green and all form of moral decadence are all around us. Gone were the ages of innocence when people were generally conscious of their moral responsibilities and spiritual obligations. It is time to heed the call of John the Baptist to correct our crooked ways and follow the path of genuine conversion. To achieve genuine conversion is not only making right our own life’s path by focusing more on Christ but also encouraging others to do the same. Only by doing so can we find salvation, not in men; not in mundane goods, but in God who is the master of our destiny.

This Advent, we are challenged by the Baptist. After all, this is season to prepare for re-experiencing the birth of our Lord at Christmas, and to prepare for the second coming of Jesus. And that preparation calls for our repentance, not only turning away from our personal sins, but more importantly, to clear our minds of the old ways and to turn towards God and the attitudes that set in sight the realm of heaven. Advent is not preparing to welcome a liberator that promises comfort and an easy life but one who promises immortality and life to those who would respond to His call to follow him faithfully to the end.

John’s preaching reminds us of our important task of announcing Christ and sharing the Gospel to all and sundry; in our homes, neighborhood and the community at large. For, as John the Baptist so vigorously preached during his ministry, our deliverance from pain, suffering and all forms of tribulation is Christ; for He alone is the answer. It is He and He alone who can provide us real happiness.

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Topics: Gospel of Mark , Second Day of Advent , John the Baptist , Jerusalem , Judea ,
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