The preaching of John the Baptist
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Valeriano Avila (The Freeman) - December 8, 2019 - 12:00am

It’s the second Sunday of Advent and, as we all know, December 8 is Immaculate Conception Day. However, the Catholic Church always gives importance to our Sundays so while we go to Mass today, tomorrow is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and therefore a holiday of obligation. Actually the Feast of the Immaculate Conception started in 1854, with Pope Pius IX's solemn declaration, Ineffabilis Deus clarified with finality the long-held belief of the Church that Mary was conceived free from original sin.

In proclaiming the immaculate conception of Mary as a dogma of the Church, the Pope expressed precisely and clearly that Mary was conceived free from the stain of original sin. This privilege of Mary derives from God's having chosen her as Mother of the Savior; thus she received the benefits of salvation in Christ from the very moment of her conception.

In 1858, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous in the town of Lourdes, Southern France, from 11 February to 16 July 1858, she reported 18 apparitions of "a lady." Saint Bernadette described the lady as wearing a white veil and a blue girdle; she had a golden rose on each foot and held a rosary of pearls. When she asked her who she was, the lady in the grotto of Massabielle said, “I am the Immaculate Conception!” It was perfectly timed that the Vatican had approved this dogma, but how could a little girl in Southern France know of it, if not from the Lady of Lourdes? Anyway, please make sure that you go to church.

So, today as I said is the second Sunday of Advent and Christmas is literally around the corner. Our gospel reading today comes from Matt.3:1-12 about the preaching of John the Baptist whose message is to clear the way for the coming of the Lord.

“3 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,

‘Prepare the way for the Lord,

 make straight paths for him.’”

“4 John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

“7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

“11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

* * *

As we learned from the Bible from the very words of Jesus, there is no prophet greater than John the Baptist. Despite his popularity, he never claimed to be the messiah when people asked who he was. This is why he warns those who approach him for Baptism, “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” When finally Jesus approached him to be baptized John’s mission was over. In John 3:30 he said, “He must increase, but I must decrease. When we have finally embraced our Lord Jesus into our life, this is exactly what we must say, that Jesus must increase within us, while we must decrease for we are nothing and the Lord is everything in us!

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