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(Part 15)


December 8, 2019
Today’s gospel: Matthew 3:1-12

John preceded Jesus in preaching about the Kingdom. In his preaching we find three fundamental ways by which we can be founded on the Rock that is Christ.

First is repentance. John preached, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (v.2). Now this is not just about repenting for sin, going to confession, sinning again, and repeating the whole process. This is about a transformation of life, a total turnaround, a metanoia. It is a complete change from being of the world to being of the Lord. It is turning to Jesus in faith and living his designated way of life. It is living in him, with him and through him. It is striving to become a new man, made in the image and likeness of God.

John said to the Pharisees and Sadducees, “You brook of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.” (v.7b-8). Now the Pharisees were devoted to the law of Moses and the Sadducees were the priestly class, but they were denounced by Jesus as hypocrites. How many Christians today seemingly strive to live religious lives but fail in the weightier matters of authentic Christian discipleship? One glaring example are prominent Western public figures who claim to be devout Catholics but are pro-abortion. And then there are the less glaring examples, which are all of us.

John tells them to produce good fruit. This is personal holiness. This is authentic discipleship. We too must produce good fruit. This is manifested in our personal life, in our family life, and in our community life. One important point: repentance is a joyful thing. It is not about looking gloomy and walking with our head bowed down. It is about realizing that by the grace of God we are acknowledging our shortcomings and are given the opportunity to change for the better. It is continuing to walk forward in Christ. It is a means by which be become more deeply rooted in Christ.

Remember John’s warning: “every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” (v.10b).

Second is the infilling of the Holy Spirit. We were filled with the Spirit when we were baptized sacramentally as infants. Our original sin was wiped away. John says, “I am baptizing you with water, for repentance” (v.11a). Then we had sacramental Confirmation. With this, we received a special infilling of the Spirit to enable us to live Christ and to share Christ. But we see so many Catholics, both baptized and confirmed, who are bad people or who are lapsed in their faith. Or there are even good people but who do not proclaim Christ.

People need to experience a renewed infilling of the Spirit in their lives as adults. It is Jesus who baptizes us in his Spirit. “He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire.” (v.11c). This happened on the day of Pentecost, when the Spirit came down on the disciples as tongues of fire. Then Peter preached one sermon and 3,000 were converted. From then, the Christian faith spread like wildfire. Jesus’ disciples were fired up with zeal for the gospel.

Now we were baptized in the Spirit (not the sacramental aspect but the adult experience) when we came into MFC. But this infilling should not just be a one-time event. We need to be continually filled with the Spirit. How does this happen? This comes with unceasing prayer, with study and living out of the word of God, with reverent reception of Jesus in the Eucharist, with selfless service in community and Church.

The baptism in the Spirit infuses in us zeal for the proclamation of the gospel of salvation in Jesus. Our Church is missionary. MFC is evangelistic and missionary. Each one of us is to share Christ with others. This missionary aspect is what is being lost, as even our Church is engaged in many different works but not so much on missionary endeavors. And how many lay Catholics actually know that they are supposed not only to live Christ but also to share Christ?

Thirdly, we are to help prepare the way of the Lord. Isaiah prophesied about John: “A voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’” (v.3). Indeed, we are an evangelistic and missionary community. With LCSC we help bring back our Church to her missionary roots. This is crucial work, as we are today living in a desert of sin and evil.

We preach repentance. We bring people into a support environment where they can be transformed and filled with the Spirit. And we strive to do this in a massive way, simply because there are so many to be reached, and people are dying in their sins.

In this season we celebrate the coming of Jesus into the world. But there will be a second coming, at which time the choices of people will determine whether they go to heaven or to hell. “His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (v.12).

We are rooted on the Rock that is Christ when we live for him and proclaim him to the world, so that many more will be saved.

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