Alice Camille puts it well in her commentary on today's Gospel : reprinted in today's parish bulletin:
"Bad news!" she writes as if she were present at the scene. Let's put ourselves at that Gospel scene and stand right alongside her. We get there late, so she tells us what's happening: "Some radical by the name of John is calling for reform," she says. "He dresses weirdly and he eats bugs. Everybody's falling at his feet and getting dunked in the river. There's hysteria in the air, and the authorities are here but they don't know what to do with him. He says awful things about our religious leaders, telling us that their claims to God's favor mean nothing. He says God would just as soon have rocks for children. He says God is going to clear out all the deadwood and burn it. Then finally, he says, if you think he (meaning John!) is a radical, wait till you see who's coming up the pipe next. A dunk in the river now is nothing compared to the shower of Spirit and fire that is coming!"
The One coming up the pipe next of course is Jesus; and we've all been dunked in the river (so to speak) in the waters of Baptism. Our dunkings were different than John's dunkings, but both are significant. In our baptismal dunkings, we're not simply called to a change of heart; we actually receive the Abiding Spirit and fire of a special kinship with Jesus. We receive amazing gifts of faith, hope and love, gifts that help us live the Gospel and walk courageously in the footsteps of the radical One who goes by the name of Jesus.
So the question naturally arises: over the years have we allowed ourselves to become part of the deadwood that needs to be cleared away, or have we energized the Spirit and fire given us at Baptism? Are we radicals or not? The answer we give is important and must be truthful. For if we've allowed ourselves to become part of the deadwood, the Good News is that we can still change ourselves, and NOW is the time to change. If on the other hand we've encouraged the Spirit to come alive in us, and the fire to inspire our words and actions, then we ARE the radicals who walk in Jesus' own footsteps, the radicals we are called to be, and NOW is the time to persevere. Yes, Advent can be, should be a win/win season for us all. Is it? It's our call : mine and yours!