2nd Sunday Advent – Why John the Baptist???
Baptized in the Jordan! For Advent??? Repentance during Advent is a way for us to prepare to celebrate the Nativity of the Lord. That is why, I believe, we have the Baptist – Jack the Dipper (Thank you, Dennis Hamm, SJ!!!) – appearing to call all to repentance on this second Sunday of Advent!
The baptism John offered was completely new! Well, not quite. Converts to Judaism went through a rite of passage, walking into and through the water, just as Israelites trekked through the Red Sea from slavery to freedom. John (most likely) adapted this very specific rite and called his people to “go through the Sea” again! Walk the path from slavery to freedom in a new way to show your willingness to get back to what is most real.
That’s what repentance is. It’s as if the Church would come up with a baptism-like ritual in Lent for all the baptized to experience again and by it, recommit to the implications of our own baptism into Christ. “Do it again! This time with feeling!”
What a concept!
So, since the Baptist called his people to a engage in a ritual of passage from slavery to freedom, what would Advent look like if it encompassed a similar rite of passage? It might look like this:
Separation from the old >>>>> The old dissolves; the new slowly develops & grows >>>>> New way of living
That is, we can remember the birth of Christ in the depths of our hearts by entering onto a journey toward Bethlehem in our hearts. We seek within our old selves, our wounded and vulnerable selves for the path to Bethlehem from whence the Christ beckons us.
For example, fasting from drama, anxiety, vengeance, or drink during Advent could open our eyes to the effects of our attitudes and behaviors on ourselves and others. We’d be left with deep emotions that drive us – fear, anger, loneliness, emptiness, etc…
Were we to sit with this part of our lives with the Risen Christ, we may in fact find him revealing to us the path to our inner Bethlehem, the very places we avoid.
We’d find the Lord in Podunk-ville in his vulnerability and lack of power. With him, we could find newness of life.