Pax et Bonum+Paz y Todo lo Bueno!
You brood of vipers! That is a fun way to start a homily or an article! Saint John was harsh with those Pharisees, true? I don’t want to be harsh with anyone, but sometimes we do need some tough love. God knows the importance of tough love. He often sends us challenges and crosses to teach us about ourselves and his loving presence. John the Baptist spent his adult life preaching, really yelling at people, from a river in the desert. Eventually, people started listening to his message of repentance. But it didn’t happen overnight.
The message was difficult to hear and even accept. No one likes being told they’re wrong, much less be told they’re wrong and going to be punished by God if they don’t change their ways. John points out the Pharisees who wanted to be baptized in the Gospel this Sunday. He basically challenges their intentions. “Are you fleeing from the coming wrath?” “Are you just here because you’re afraid?” “Go and produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance!” Basically saying, “if you’re actually sorry, prove it!” That’s tough love. It’s not enough to just say we’re sorry or appear to be disciples.
The sincerity of our repentance and discipleship must overflow into good works and charity. If we say we’re sorry for a sin, but secretly keep committing the same sin, were we ever truly sorry? If we go to church on Sunday and pray with our mouths, but go work on Monday and curse someone with that same mouth, are we really putting our faith into practice? The Catholic faith is not confined to the walls of our churches. It aches to love others with the love of Christ everywhere we go. Saint John the Baptist had a message of tough love and he challenged people to live what they claimed to believe, in a sense, to “practice what they preached.” As we continue this Advent journey it might be time for us to get some tough love.
Do you love God? Prove it!
Father Charles Ravert serves as pastor of St. Ambrose Parish in Philadelphia
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