The normal sequence of the Mass readings for the day has the Old Testament reading first, followed by the epistle and then the gospel reading. Today it seems more logical to read the Gospel first, then the epistle. The reason for doing that is that before we look at the expected and anticipated results of our actions let’s look at the actions we need to take in preparation for the birthday of Jesus, the messiah. John the Baptist’s words as contained in today’s Gospel which reads, “Turn back to God! The kingdom of heaven will soon be here.”
What does turning back to God mean? It means that we recognize that we need God in our lives and that we are lost without his help and forgiveness.
One major difference between people today and people in the time of John the Baptist is that they were willing to go out of their way-literally- to acknowledge their sins and as well acknowledge that they need God in their lives. Many people today have duped themselves into thinking that they don’t need a Messiah. Many find the notion of sin to be obsolete at worst and quaint at best. Are you or I one of the duped people? A question we can ask ourselves is, are we good enough without following the example of Jesus especially when we realize that following his example, that is, that when Jesus is daily reborn in our lives, happiness now and forever is the result and that repentance results in peace of mind.
It was the 18th century poet, Alexander Pope who said, “What does it profit us if Jesus is reborn in thousands of cribs and not reborn in our hearts?” He meant that when Jesus is reborn in our lives daily, we radiate his love, understanding, kindness, compassion, forgiveness and the spirit of humble service to the world throughout our lives. Advent is the ideal time to prepare for Christ’s coming by allowing him to be reborn daily in our lives. We do this preparation by making a special effort to repent of our short-comings, and renew our lives through prayer, reflecting on Scripture and sharing our many blessings through evangelizing and other outward actions. I believe it is valid to say that when Jesus is reborn in our hearts we are reborn. When Jesus is daily reborn in our lives, Saint Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans that we are made patient and cheerful, we will be honoring God by accepting each other as Jesus accepts each of us plus we will live in peace and we will be helped to live in peace with each other, as we follow Christ.
Many other Christian denominations likely would define that transformation, that is, being “Born Again” or “Saved”, a one- time occurance which is never lost. If you would be asked that question, what would be your answer? Back in my parish in Lake City I attended a weekly scripture and prayer session with a group of men. I was the only Catholic in the group and at the first session they asked me if I was “Saved, “Born Again”. Before I answered that question I asked what was their definition of being “Born Again”, or “Saved”. They answered that you are “Born Again” or “Saved” if you have accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. My response was that I satisfied their definition of “Born Again” or “Saved”, but the preferred definition of the long-term transformation in my mind is the continuing one when Jesus is daily reborn in our lives. . In the Catholic Church we rarely hear that we need to be “Born” or “Saved” but as Alexander Pope said, we need to have Jesus daily reborn in our lives.
What great thought and activity to begin this Advent season!
In today’s first reading from Isaiah
Isaiah 11:1-5 This is a prophesy of the characteristics of the Messiah.
11:6:8 This is a poetic passage, a fantasy of an ideal world rather than a prediction of the future.