Matthew 3: 1-12
In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight." Now John wore a garment of camel's hair, and a leather girdle around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then went out to him Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sad'ducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit that befits repentance, and do not presume to say to yourselves, `We have Abraham as our father'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. "I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."
St. John the Baptist gets a bit fiery here with the Pharisees and Sad'ducees, doesn't he? He calmly and peacefully baptizes all those who come to him, but when the "brood of vipers" approaches, he tells it like it is! These men are known to be hypocrites, and St. John will not have it. He will not allow them to claim baptism in the Spirit unless they also show change their lives.
Am I a hypocrite? Do I pledge to change but truly fall short in vital areas? We are all sinners in need of repentance, but some offer only a lukewarm response to God's mercy, neglecting to "bear good fruit." St. John knew that Jesus would not tolerate such as these. In his humility, he tried to warn them of what was to come. Most didn't listen.
Do I heed the warning that Christ is coming? Do I live my days as if each day was my last opportunity to show God my love and devotion? How can I ensure that each day is spent producing fruit that the Lord would value? Does my Baptism inspire me daily to actively pursue holiness? Or do I shrug my shoulders and merely "try"?
Mary's yes at the Annunciation was not lukewarm. She did not shrug her shoulders and say, "Whatever you want; you're God." How often do I have this reaction to challenging events in my life? Her acceptance of the will of God was difficult, and she confidently responded, "Let it be done unto me..." She essentially told God to "bring it on!" Her response was strong, not weak. What is my usual response to God?
St. John the Baptist warns the Pharisees, but he also warns us. Am I ready to face Christ's winnowing fork? Do my actions clearly communicate my faith in God? This Advent season, how can I better embrace my Baptismal calling to live no longer but let Christ live in me?