Note to preachers this weekend: When the Gospel includes the words “brood of vipers,” the message is not just be good to each other. How tired I am of banal homilies! Not only are they boring, but they conceal from us the true Christ. That’s pretty serious stuff. The real Jesus is not our buddy, He is our Lord. And He did not say, “Can’t we all just get along?” He challenged us, always, to be intentional disciples, that is, to boldly live the gospel message.
The Gospel for the Second Sunday of Advent tells us about John the Baptist. People from all over were coming to him, admitting their sins, and being baptized in the Jordan River. The Sadducees and the Pharisees came along, but John callrd them on their hypocrisy. As Jesus would point out numerous times throughout His ministry, the Sadducees and Pharisees, who were the elite of the Temple, were very ostentatious in their worship, but without compassion for their fellow man. They would point to the slightest infraction committed by others, but behind the finery of their clerical robes, there was evil in their hearts.
John told them that being sons of Abraham was not sufficient, they must produce good fruit. In this, he foreshadowed the words of Christ,
“So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “So then, you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” (Matthew 7:17-21)
Likewise for us, calling ourselves Christian and attending (or celebrating) Mass regularly means nothing if our hearts are bitter and destructive. If we survey the crowd at Mass to note who we are better than, to enumerate their faults and weaknesses (real or imagined) in order to make ourselves feel superior, we are hardly disposed to be welcomed into heaven, should we be called at that moment. If we ignore the homeless, the sick, and the lonely as we enter the front doors of the church, we have missed the point.
The Advent season reminds us that while we might think we are ready for Christmas because we have finished our shopping and baking, we are not ready until we ask for forgiveness for our sins and amend our lives – repent! Go, and boldly live the gospel!