2nd Sunday of Advent!
Call for Metanoia!
Not too many years ago, newspapers carried the story of Al Johnson, a Kansas man who repented of his sins and chose Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. What made his story so remarkable was that, as a result of his newfound faith in Christ, he confessed to a bank robbery he had participated in when he was nineteen years old. Because of the statute of limitations, Johnson could not be prosecuted for the offense. But because of his complete and total change of heart, he not only confessed his crime but voluntarily repaid his share of the stolen money! This is repentance, metanoia, a radical change of heart demanded by John the Baptist in today’s Gospel. Metanoia is a Greek word meaning “changing one’s mind” by experiencing a breakdown and subsequently re-building or healing oneself.
The first reading, (Is 40:1-5,9-11) from the Prophet Isaiah, tells about the Babylonian exiles returning to their native country, Judah, and their Holy City of Jerusalem. The Prophet Isaiah assures the people that the Lord will lead them in a grand procession to their Holy City and take care of them as a shepherd would care for his sheep. The second reading, from St. Peter (2 Peter 3: 8-14), invites us to get ready for the Heavenly city, with Jesus at his Second Coming. The Gospel, according to Mark (Mk 1:1-8), tells us through John the Baptist how we should prepare to receive Jesus our Savior into our lives during the Advent season by repentance, revival, and renewal of our lives. John invited those preparing for metanoia to be baptized as they confessed their sins. He wanted the Jews to prepare their lives for the Messiah by filling in the valleys of prejudice, leveling the mountains of pride, and straightening out their crooked paths of injustice and immorality. John recommended a baptism of repentance in the river Jordan to the Jews who were familiar with rituals and symbolic washings. The incredible thing about John’s baptism was that, as a Jew, he asked his fellow Jews to submit to the baptism of repentance, which only a Gentile was obliged to undergo.
Sunday cycle of year B is marked with the Gospel, according to Mark, where he opens the Gospel with the preparation for Christ’s public life, in which the chief promoter is John the Baptist. He proclaims the importance of “here and now” or the nearness of an event for which people need to be ready. John Announced, saying: “One more powerful than I, is to come after me…I have baptized you in water; He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit.” The essence of John’s message is “repent and return to the ways of the Lord by a change of heart.” John’s ministry was effective primarily because his life was his message, and he lived what he preached. He was a man in the desert, and in its solitude, he heard the voice of God, and he had the courage of his convictions. John’s message was effective because he was completely humble. His role was to serve Jesus and to serve the people. John proclaimed saying that “He must increase and I must decrease.”
Advent season is primarily a call for introspection of our personal lives. What type of person am I? Am I anywhere close to John the Baptist having the same attitude, “He must increase, and I must decrease?” Am I humble before the Lord and others that our lives and ministry can be useful and productive? We realize that we are always not humble enough to acknowledge God as the source of all that we have, and we are; instead, we take pride in ourselves and place ourselves on high pedestals. At times, our attitude is “I must increase, and others must decrease,” which is just the opposite of John the Baptist’s attitude. These types of attitudes and tendencies, dear brothers and sisters, can take us away from our heavenly city. It is here we need a metanoia in our personal lives through the path of repentance, renewal, and revival of our lives.
Advent is a time of preparation and reflection to welcome Jesus and to become a new person in the light of Christ. A person of His mold in actions and attitudes. As Christians of the 21st century, our call today is to call for metanoia, a change of mind, a change of heart, a change of attitudes, change of lifestyle, and change of life perspectives. May Baby Jesus continue to bless us during this advent!
Fr. Tomy Joseph Puliyanampattayil, MSFS
(Fr. T. J. Puliyan, MSFS)