Repentance in Person

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The WORD in other words (2022) by Fr Joey Miras SVD — Canada

2nd Sunday of Advent / C

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons, Saint John the Baptist Bearing Witness

John the Baptist has been the embodiment of the message of repentance. Maybe we could go into why he has become repentance in person.

In the Scriptures, we read about the birth of John, how his parents lived righteously and blamelessly. His father Zacharias, after having served in the temple, came out unable to speak because of a vision. He was able to talk later after the birth of John. Elizabeth would be visited by Mary, and the two women would exchange praises to the Lord.

Next, John appeared preaching already in the wilderness. He wore a camel’s hair and survived on locusts. He seemed to be a powerful preacher because he did not mince words towards his audience, “You brood of vipers…”

It seemed John came from nowhere, or the story of his birth is something extraordinary, fit only for the birth of special people. What is not being said categorically is that John is a unique person with a message from God.

He came from a priestly family since his father was a priest. He must have grown into a sacerdotal milieu and most probably unconsciously absorbed Zacharias’ work or ministry. But did this influence the direction of John’s life? Maybe or maybe not. Nowhere was it mentioned that he trained or studied to become like his father. And he showed extraordinary courage and dynamism preaching throughout Judea. If he was not swayed by his father, then he must have been his own man. If his father was the influence, it became palpable later in his life, and preaching became his vocation. God’s ways must have been mysteriously active in him.

The inability of his father to speak until John’s birth was caused by his unbelief about Elizabeth’s pregnancy at an advanced age. Though he was a priest, he also had that rational mind not to be swayed easily by unexplained events. Maybe he needed more time to digest what was happening. He was a discerning person, a trait which perhaps John inherited as he pronounced judgment on cases and people during his ministry. An example of this was his forward judgment on Herod’s taking Herodias as his wife, whose hurt feelings and bruised ego perhaps led her to exact vengeance on John and have him killed. Zacharias paid quietly for his “unbelief” or doubts with dignity. John also paid dearly with his life for his “straight talk” towards Herodias and Herod.

Compared to Isaiah, a very prominent prophet in the OT, John was “a voice crying out in the wilderness” with his message. There must have been something distinct in the voice of John. There was a certain quality that caught the attention of hearers. Was it a baritone voice, a tenor, or bass? Whatever it was, his voice was heard, and it was profoundly moving. But was it simply a voice? It was not merely the quality of a voice, the kind of pitch or tone pleasant and sweet to the ears. It was not a measured or organized pattern of sounds, tension, release, and strong closure meant to produce effects because his voice was not a musical one, not a piece of tonal music. There was also a message in the voice. The voice was not only heard, but a message was also understood. Could John the Baptist have been the NT version of being the medium as the message?

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