The Gospel reading on this Sunday deals with the ministry of John the Baptist. The theme of his preaching was this “Reform your lives for the Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand”. How does one do that? It will do little good for us to say, I will now reform my life. Nothing constructive is likely to come from that. I suggest two ideas that I think are essential if we are to experience a personal reformation.
First, we must take an honest look at ourselves, which is not any easy thing to do. The last person on earth that each of us really wants to meet is himself or herself. So we master the art of hiding ourselves from ourselves. The Pharisees and Sadducees had convinced themselves that they were the finest people on earth but John called them “a brood of vibers” which to us sounds harsh but there was actually an element of mercy in it. John knew that they were hiding from themselves and nothing would change until they took an honest look at their own lives. The same is true of us as well.
The second suggestion is this – to have a personal reformation we must remain self critical, which is true of all of us. We are weak and make mistakes. We are not always right, no one ever is. One of the finest things that any of us could do is face the fact that we are sometimes wrong and admit it.
My final thought is this – do something different, take some action. John said to the Pharisees and Sadducees “Give some evidence that you intend to reform”. How easy it is for our lives to get in ruts and remain there day after day, week after week. It is not our intention, it just happens.
Advent can be a time of personal reformation. It can be and will be if we take an honest look at ourselves and have the courage to do something good that we don’t ordinarily do. “Reform your lives for the Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand”.