“As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: What did you go out into the wilderness to behold? A reed shaken by the wind? Why then did you go out? To see a man dressed in soft robes? Behold, those who wear soft robes are in kings’ houses. Why then did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.’ Matthew 11: 7-10
St. John is no “reed shaken by the wind.” He is not diverted from the path of discipline or mindful of earthly pleasures.
He is the greatest and last Old Testament prophet. Jesus tells us though that even the “least” saint in the New Testament outshines St. John. John bears witness to Christ by his preaching, by his baptism of repentance, and through his martyrdom at the hand of Herod. Jesus views John as going before Him in “the spirit and power of Elijah.”
Jesus never undermines the saintly life of John because he is more than a prophet. He completes the cycle of prophets begun by Elijah. The Holy Spirit concludes His speaking through the prophets with St. John and completes the careful search of the prophets and fulfills the longing of the angels. “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is He Who baptizes with the Holy Spirit and I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God. . .Behold, the Lamb of God.” John 12: 33-36
Do we want to prepare our hearts for Jesus’ coming? Then, we, like St. John the Baptist, must detach ourselves from earthly goods. He went into the desert and lead a life of penance. In so far as we are able, can we retire into the interior of our hearts to await Jesus’ coming in silence, solitude, and deep recollection? Can we add a greater spirit of penance, generosity, and charity to our daily lives? Can we give something up or take on something hard in the next two weeks? The true Joy of Christmas is worth it.
We can’t doubt that Jesus came to save and sanctify us. We can’t doubt that He is infinitely merciful and we can go to Him with complete confidence. We can’t doubt that He loves us with an infinite Love; Love that we do not deserve and can never truly reciprocate no matter how we try in our clumsy, sinful way.
During this Advent, we are invited to listen to His voice and prepare ourselves. I know that it is hard for me to quiet my continual chatter about useless things. I know that my mind and heart can be like a raging sea of fantasies, thoughts and self love. I have a hard time turning this off. It’s hard to be calm during this season with all the distractions of shopping, parties, spending, and eating and drinking too much.
Yet, Jesus can calm the raging sea and quiet the tumultuous mind. So, pray along with me, “Jesus, help me to quiet the chatter and calm my mind. Teach me how to fasten my gaze upon you, so that all the rest will fade away. Draw everything about me to Yourself.”
And, St. John the Baptist, pray for us.