December 4, 2202; Matthew 3:1-12; The Second Sunday of Advent
Why is John the Baptist so negative toward the Pharisees and Saducees in today’s gospel? After all, the text clearly tells us that they were coming to him for baptism. They were not presenting themselves to argue or disagree with him but to submit to baptism in acknowledgment of their sins. So why does John push them away and call them a “brood of vipers”? The desire for baptism is a good thing. So we must locate the fault of the Pharisees and Saducees elsewhere. Perhaps, although they presented themselves for baptism, they did not present their whole selves to John. Perhaps they held back some particularly embarrassing faults or sins in an effort to present themselves more favorably.
John says this will not do. John knows that when we come into the presence of God, we cannot hold back. We must come to God as the people we are, including our flaws and shortcomings. During this Advent season we are called to bathe ourselves in the light of Christ. But we cannot truly embrace Christ’s light if we hold a part of ourselves back, because the part we hold back is the part that Jesus is unable to heal.
We may have hurt someone or treated someone unjustly. Then we quickly brush aside the responsibility for our action: “I was having a bad day. She’ll get over it.” We take the lie that we have addressed our action and interiorize it. The lie lives within us and harms us, churning in our gut and causing us sadness, eventhough we do not admit to its power. It is only when we bring the lie out into the light of Christ, that we can acknowledge our responsibility and be free. We may have carried within us a sense of unworthiness, even from our childhood. We push ourselves forward, pretending things are fine, but too often we fall into doubt and depression. It is only when we place that false view of ourselves in Christ’s hands, that he can make us whole. We may have convinced ourselves that we are being more than generous with people around us. We spend enough time with our family. We are active enough in service to those in need—at least as much as the next guy. Yet we find ourselves spending more time watching television, playing video games, and giving ourselves to inconsequential hobbies. We fail to evaluate where our time is going. It is only when we bring the question of our time out into the light of Christ, that he can show us how we can be true disciples.
We all want to come to Jesus. But Jesus does not want a part of us. Jesus wants all of us. It is only when we give him our hurts and our lies that he can heal them. It is only when we place our compromises and shortcomings in his light that we can grow. Jesus stands waiting for us to come. We must not hold back. We must find the courage to place our entire selves in his hands.