The Preacher of Advent: John the Baptist

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

Along with the prophets of the Old Testament, particularly Isaiah, and with our Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, one of the lead characters of the Advent Season is John the Baptist. In the liturgy of Advent John appears in the Gospels especially on the second and third Sundays.
John the Baptist is one of the most colorful, eccentric characters of the Bible. We are told that he lived in the desert, dressed in camel hair, and ate locusts and wild honey. He was very popular and people flocked to the wilderness to hear him preach. John is the bridge between the Old Testament and the New Testament. He preached like a prophet of the Old, but we read his story in the pages of the New.
As we are intrigued by the man, however, it’s important that we not lose sight of his powerful message. John’s mission, his purpose in life, was to prepare the People of Israel to recognize and welcome the Messiah. And to do that, John insisted, people needed moral conversion. They needed to renounce their sins and turn back to God. (A relevant message for our times as well, it seems to me!)
Pope Francis, in one of his homilies, has beautifully illustrated the relationship between John and Jesus. Our Holy Father emphasized that John’s whole mission was to point to Jesus. The Pope explained that “John was the lamp, but not the light; he was the voice, but not the word; that John was the provisional, but Jesus was the definitive.” Pope Francis goes on to say that “if we were to paint a picture of John the Baptist, all we would need to paint is the image of a pointing finger,” that is, John pointing to Jesus!
John said the same thing. When Jesus appeared on the scene, John looked at Jesus and insisted, “He must increase; I must decrease.” (Jn 3:30)
St. Peter, in his Second Letter, which also appears in Advent, speaks of the Second Coming of Christ, the “Day of the Lord.” The Apostle explains that the Lord is not delaying his final coming arbitrarily, but because he is patiently waiting for us to repent so that none of us will perish. (Cf: 2 Pt 3: 9) We have to wonder just how long Jesus will wait, or if his patience will soon run out!
Dear friends, if we listen to John the Baptist we will repent, we will turn to Jesus and be saved when he comes again.
Something to think about: Does the call to repentance apply to you?