John the Baptist certainly grabs our attention, appearing in the desert in his garment of camel hair, eating locusts and wild honey. His language can be cryptic—he addresses the Pharisees and Sadducees as ‘brood of vipers’, and speaks of trees and axes, winnowing fans and wheat. He is a peculiar mixture of signs and messages, even to the people of the time who were on the lookout for prophetic figures, Nowadays, John would cut an even more eccentric figure.
Sometimes a person’s lifestyle can offer an even more powerful witness than their words. John’s basic diet and dress suggest a lifestyle that is at once simple and radical, one which challenged the norms of the day. It all brings to mind another man who caught our attention with his simple lifestyle earlier this year. As soon as Pope Francis was elected, all the talk was of his modest living quarters as Bishop and his preference for public transport. He has made a point to continue this simple lifestyle as Pope. That a senior clergy man should choose to live a simple and ethical life should hardly come as a shock to the world. Yet there was a powerful witness in his actions.
While we might not be called to the desert life, we are challenged to examine our values and our relationship with material things—an apt message as we enter the most materialistic season of the year. John the Baptist’s message can be summed up by the first word he speaks: repent. The Greek word for ‘repentance’ is metanoia, literally a change of heart.
Athlone, Co. Roscommon
The Pilgrimage of Life
Advent is a season of preparing for the threefold
coming of Christ:
his past coming which we celebrate at Christmas;
his future coming at the end of life;
and his everyday coming to us in personal relationship.
The Liturgical Year begins with readings about the end of life,
like reminding people about their destination
before they start out on a journey.
So, we hear the Lord say in today's gospel to stand ready
at all times for we know not the time of his final coming.
Our life therefore is a pilgrimage towards God.
The psalm of the day is the prayer of pilgrims,
rejoicing to have the journey behind them
as they have reached Jerusalem.
"Now our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem"
Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap