In Advent, on the Second and Third Sundays, the Gospels in the Lectionary for Mass always place John the Baptist front and center. Some of what we know about him comes, not from the New Testament, but from the Jewish historian, Josephus. In his Antiquities of the Jews (c. 93/94 A.D.), Josephus writes about John:
“…He was a good man and had exhorted the Jews to lead righteous lives, to practice justice towards others and piety towards God and so doing join in baptism….”
John’s call, heard during the Church’s liturgies for Advent, echo the spirit of Lent: Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near (Mt 3:1). The Greek word for “repent” is metanoia – meaning reform your life, have a transformation of your heart. Apparently, the ordinary people accepted John’s invitation in great numbers; the religious and political leaders did not.
During these weeks leading to the celebrations of our Lord Jesus’ Nativity, Christians are invited to enter into a time when their head and heart must come together. Even amid all the distractions, the invitation to Repent asks that each of us reconnect our lives to what really matters – our salvation in Christ the Son of God. We need not be filled with dismay, fear or dread. The mercy of God is offered to those who desire to prepare for the joy God alone can bestow.