Fr. Jim homily

3 minute read


Is. 40:1-5, 9-11; Ps. 85; 2 Pt. 3:8-14; Mk. 1:1-8

(Audio recorded live, 5 December 2020)

Today, our passage from the Gospel of Mark shows us the fulfillment of what Isaiah had prophesied hundreds of years prior: “A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’” Mark tells us that John the Baptist was this voice, who has since come to be known as the great front runner of Jesus, calling the people of Judea and Jerusalem to a baptism of repentance. He does so by the way he lives and the words of his preaching.

Mark tells us that John was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, feeding on locusts and wild honey. In other words, John was an ascetic—someone who had a lifestyle of abstinence and self-denial for the sake of God. John gave up the pursuit of comfort so he could prepare the way of the Lord. He then goes on to say, “One mightier than I is coming after me…he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” In this statement, we see the humility of John, who in the midst of massive crowds of followers and people coming to him to be baptized, he instead points the way to another; he instead, points to Christ.

The role of a prophet is to be a spokesperson for God. And the message of John was simple: Repent and prepare the way of the Lord. When we focus in on this message of John, we not only see a connection between repentance and preparation for the Lord, we also see a formula for the reception of the Holy Spirit. We must first repent before we can prepare the way of the Lord, and when we are prepared, then we receive the Holy Spirit. John’s humility and ascetic lifestyle is an image of letting go of former ways, of letting go of sin, of letting go of distractions and all that would lead us away from the Lord. His baptism of repentance is symbolic of having made this transition. And so, repentance is the first step. John then reveals that there is an even greater baptism for those who make this first step, that is, baptism with the Holy Spirit.

To be a Christian is to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. This is the first Sacrament and is necessary for salvation. And while every human being is made in the image and likeness of God, baptism configures us in a special way as children of God. We receive an indelible seal on our soul; we are touched by the Holy Spirit. This is why we call God our Father. But, none of it would be possible without preparation.

Advent is a season of preparation. The color violet reminds us of the color of the sky before dawn. It is a time of awakening and coming to the light; it is a time of letting go so we can embrace; it is a time of self-denial, that we may not be denied. And so, as we continue to reflect on the great mysteries of our redemption, let us reflect on our own lives, perhaps our own need for repentance, those things that keep us from the straight path, and let us rekindle our own baptism in the Holy Spirit, mindful that each of us is a temple of the Holy Spirit. And may the communion we share, help us to cling more fervently to the Lord, to his Holy Spirit, dwelling within each of us today.

Given during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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