Homily: What Did John the Baptist Know?
Today we celebrate the second Sunday of Advent and in our Gospel, we see the call of St. John the Baptist for everyone to repent. Let us understand John the Baptist. He was orphaned at a young age. His father, according to tradition was murdered by Herod’s men when the king ordered the murder of all children under the age of two and he refused to disclose John’s whereabouts.
His mother died of natural causes when he was very young. He grew up in the desert and was a virtual feral child. So often he is portrayed as this madman calling people to repent. He was also a mystic and maybe bringing back some imagery from Robert Bly possibly appearing as a wildman. Put all that together and you can imagine a man speaking with urgency calling people to repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand. He, clearly, got your attention when he spoke.
What did he know? Probably more than he wanted to let on.
St. John of the Cross warned that if God reveals something to you ignore it. If you know it was from God ignore it. If you are positive it was from God ignore it. Because if it really is from God it will come true.
John calls the people to repent because the Kingdom of God is at hand. Jesus comes and reveals that the kingdom of God is in your midst and then what?
Forty years after the arrival of John and Jesus on the scene, the Romans do what the Leaders of the Jews greatly feared they came in and destroyed the temple and the political entity that was the Jewish state.
What was destroyed? The temple and the worship in the temple which included the daily sacrifice of lambs and the political entity called Judah. Jesus is the lamb of God and, therefore, that is one great sign that there is no longer a sacrifice of lambs because Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice to the Father.
This was the beginning of many predictions to come true most specifically that all the world would worship the God of the Jews in Jerusalem, certainly that has happened, despite the temple being destroyed.
The outgrowth of the Jewish faith Christianity is now spread throughout the world so what was destroyed? If we have an understanding of what was destroyed we may have an understanding of what John foresaw.
What was destroyed is a system that had been corrupted by the human inclination to sin. As Christianity rises, you see the greatness of the Roman Empire and then you see its decline. Yet, we are familiar with much of the Romans and the empire so what fell was the system corrupted by the human inclination to sin. We can see this over and over again and this brings us back to today’s reading for us.
Pope St. John Paul II explained that when Jesus died and rose he did not only redeem us individually but he redeemed all of humanity including everything that is part of humanity. He redeemed all of creation and led it away from sin. This means that what will always fall away is that part corrupted by sin.
Think of it this way—if you get a splinter in your finger, one way or another that splinter will be pushed out of your body. It is a foreign body that needs to be eliminated. Everything related to corruption and sin including that which has it at its foundation will eventually crumble because it cannot exist in a world redeemed by Christ. Systems will fall, redeemed humanity will rise in Christ.
This is a steady process as humanity grows in the process Christ laid out for the Father’s creation. Those parts of humanity that glorify God and his creation will prosper and those parts that destroy God's creation and his creation will crumble. Our role is always to pick the right side and lead people to it. We do that by doing what St. John the Baptist says repent and prepare the way of the Lord. God’s will is being done at a profound level that is beyond our ability to see it and control it.
Look at it this way. The sound spectrum is rather large but humans at best can only hear 20hz to 20khz. Sounds still exist outside of those frequencies and they have good and bad effects. You really cannot control most of that sound you can only know it is and often you cannot even do that. The work of the kingdom of God is happening all the time and St. John the Baptist aware of one of its major appearances called people to prepare for great change was coming.
This is our role today. We have from the time of our Baptism called to be as Church to have the same mission. Let people know that the Kingdom of God is at hand and that nothing is stopping it from happening. We can only prepare and be a sign to others.
We also must know that we need to see that the natural process of God’s work is that as corruption rises, it sows the seeds of the destruction of the institution in which it happens. Whether that is an empire, a corporation or even the Church.
Our role is to prepare ourselves always for God’s action in the world. Is it bigger and at a level that is virtually unperceivable by us? However, it is happening. We can either be a part of it or we can join the side that eventually falls away. That is always our choice.
Many today talk about communism as the utopia for the future, however, as much as Karl Marx was right about man’s economic evolution, he picked the wrong side in his predictions. He picked the side that falls away because he picked the side that exists without charity. Capitalism is the same, a capitalism without charity will eventually fail.
It is the path of charity of following the commandments to love God and neighbor that always succeeds and that is the side John the Baptist wanted all to choose. Some did and some did not.