a biblical reflection, based on Luke 3.7-18, for the 3rd Sunday of Advent, December 13, 2015
John the Baptist was a prophetic preacher, a proclaimer of God’s word. Once we get past his opening salutation (an assured attention-getter, perhaps, too, a conversation-stopper!), “You brood of vipers!”, if we keep listening, we might hear his call to baptism; the cleansing washing in water being a sign of one’s repentance, a turning away from selfish self and turning around to face and follow God. Repentance, for John, was a necessary preparation for the coming, the advent of “one who is more powerful than I”, the Messiah.
There were those who resisted John’s summons, claiming honored standing with God and, therefore, standing above and ahead of everyone else by virtue of their tradition (and, in our time, we can add place and family of origin, clan or caste, nationality or race, age or gender, sexual orientation, philosophical persuasion, political perspective, religious affiliation and adherence). John admonished, “Do not say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’” (again, in our time, fill in the blank).
In this, John called all to repent, to turn away from their preconceived ideas and trusted sense of their goodness as boundaries that separated and kept them safe from all who didn’t share their beliefs.
In this, John called all to repent, to turn away from their long practiced notions of their rightness as the basis for their assurance of (and arrogance about) their personal and eternal security.
In this, John called all to let go of their fear, and then to embrace something, someone new – the one who “will baptize…with the Holy Spirit and fire”, purifying, making one holy, making one whole.
I am a Christian. Jesus is the One I follow. Yet whatever one thinks about Jesus, who he is and what he does, for me, at the utmost least, to hear and heed John’s call is to take hold of the freedom from fear, and then to repent of the right to be right.
 Repentance, from the Greek, metanoia, literally, “a change of mind”, in which mind encompasses more than memory and the faculty of thought, but also the heart, which, as a central organ of the body, ancient peoples considered the locus of consciousness, thus, including the will, the capacity to choose.