4 December 2016
English Language Community
at Bruder Klaus Parish in Bern
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
“Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
The Fathers of the Church teach us that there are two types of water for salvation, two ways to wash, if you will, for the forgiveness of sins: there are the waters of rebirth in the Sacrament of Baptism and there are the tears of sorrow leading to forgiveness for sins committed after Baptism through the Sacrament of Penance. Even though it is incorrect, I would like to say that St. John the Baptist in Matthew’s Gospel today has the order of things turned around. John’s baptism is with water for repentance and reminds me more of Confession. That of Jesus clearly is Baptism with the Holy Spirit and with fire unto everlasting life.
Granted, sincere repentance on the part of an adult candidate for baptism goes before the sacrament itself. Rightly, we can admit with John the Baptist that it is only right for the catechumen to shed tears over past failures, over bad choices or just plain reluctance to run after Jesus, binding ourselves more closely to Him on that road less traveled. The baptismal choice, the joy of the road less traveled is that of choosing the only one that leads to glory, which leads to Heaven and happiness, both here and now, and forever.
David, we thank you for sharing with us today this most important moment in your life, your birth into God and your coming to share in the dynamic life of the Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Today, as is proper for an adult, David, your washing clean of sin will be sealed and strengthened by the gift of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Confirmation. In a truly Advent spirit, we can apply to you what the prophet Isaiah said of Jesus, the Root of Jesse:
“The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him; a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.”
I pray that today will be personally memorable and life changing for you, David. Baptism, Confirmation and later your first Holy Communion, your first reception of the Lord Jesus, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, under the forms of Bread and Wine, but truly and fully the Christ, God’s only Son, His Anointed One, truly and fully God and Man.
For all here present, I pray that David’s sacramental initiation might mark this Second Sunday of Advent for you too. May you be enlightened and enriched with a clearer understanding of the greatness of your own Baptism. If any here have become lukewarm or ambivalent about your faith, may this Sunday bring you to tears of sorrow for your sins; lead you to the Sacrament of Penance and renewed life in Christ.
I would ask parents, especially, later today at home to ask your children about their impressions at seeing a grown man reborn to new life in Christ. In very simple exchanges and with prayer, we need to bring Jesus and His Blessed Mother into our family life and conversation. We need to stop giving Jesus the silent treatment.
Let us enter now joyfully into this great celebration of our faith, something we can touch, hear, see and taste in the great Sacraments, which are our very life here in Christ’s Church.
To say it in an Advent kind of way, let me take words from the Entrance Antiphon assigned by the missal for this Second Sunday of Advent:
O people of Sion, behold, the Lord will come to save the nations, and the Lord will make the glory of his voice heard in the joy of your heart”.