By Sister Catherine Cleary, OSB
Today’s gospel, Matthew 3:1-12, presents John the Baptist preaching in the desert, perhaps to remind the people that the Israelites once crossed the desert and the Jordan to enter into the Promised Land.
This time, the Promised Land will be in the form of a person.
John has attracted “the whole region” for baptism, a water ritual in keeping with Jewish purification rites. Water connotes both a cleansing of sins and a sign of life, insofar as it is necessary for plants, animals and humans.
John is careful to remind the people that though he baptizes in water, he is not the Savior. The Savior, his cousin, Jesus, will come and baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.
What does this mean to us, today?
Certainly we may sometimes feel as if we are in the desert. We may feel our prayers are routine, our spiritual life arid.
In faith, we know the fresh running water of the Holy Spirit is in our hearts, and has been since the day of our baptism.
And we have the external signs of this Advent season, with its purple vestments, its readings of sin and penance, the simple action of blessings ourselves with holy water to inspire prayer and penance.
Finally, if we pay attention, we also hear a voice call out, “Prepare the way of the Lord.”
As you move through this week, ask yourself who is crying out in your desert?
Who is your John the Baptist?
Who – or what – invites you to prepare the way of the Lord … and how will you respond?