2nd Sunday Advent 2016 Year A

Have you ever met someone that gave you a bad first impression? Maybe it was the way they talked or they way they looked seemed out of character to you, and your stranger danger antennas perked up. Recently, I was leaving the rectory going out for a walk when I heard a few of the girls from the neighborhood directly behind our house looking at some bushes saying to one another, “Look these are the those razzle-dazzle-frazzle berries I’ve heard about.” As I overheard their conversation I walked over and said, “Oh my you’ve found the special razzle dazzle frazzle berries.” Now, this being the first time they had ever met me and the fact that I am a man wearing all black, who is scary on so many levels they began to slowly back away, when one of them said, “No offense Mister but you look like the type of person who would steal children.”

Thankfully the situation was diffused when we started talking about our favorite ice cream flavors, next thing you know they were show me all the gymnastic moves they were capable of and after meeting their parents things were in a much better place. We place a lot of emphasis on our first impressions, even if that is not always fair, it can stick with us.

In our gospel we have this character coming out of the desert covered in camels hair, gnawing on a grasshopper telling the people to “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand!” We might first think—sure buddy but only after you first take a shower. St. John the Baptist is a prophetic figure, considered the last in the line of the Old Testament, and in a real way he embodies in himself the message of Advent. He challenges his listeners to not create a defense for the person they are—but to humbly submit to their need to be more. That process begins only by accepting the fact that they have fallen short and are in need of conversion.

To repent is to tell ourselves that the stuff in my life that I’m not proud of, the baggage I carry, the choices I make that are off and take me away from God—that I can’t fix any of that on my own. Repentance literally means to turn or take an all together new direction or approach. This isn’t a self-help mentality, but a God’s help embrace. Just as a tree can’t plant itself or provide for itself the water it needs to grow and bear fruit, so too are we incapable of healing ourselves of our wounds, forgiving our own sins, or growing in our faith without God’s grace and mercy. The name of the game is dependence on God and acceptance of His providence.

The question is what kind of impression to we have of God? That He wants us to submit blindly to his ways or that He’s going to take all our toys away? I recently read a story about a couple who was trying to start up a new ministry and in their efforts they had put all their trust in God, but in doing so they were in a serious financial pinch, to the point where a week before Christmas they had no tree, no furniture, and definitely no money for presents, just as the wife cried out to God, what are we going to do, would you just help us. NO sooner had the words left her mouth, the doorbell rang and a friend from Church was there with what looked like clearance from Santa’s workshop; God had provided everything to ensure their day would be special.

God desires us to trust, to turn toward Him in our need and allow Him to reveal to us the gift of His love. This means we need to repent, to pray and to ask for God’s grace to belong more fully to Him. This can begin easily by taking time for the sacrament of confession, which on first impression might seem scary and harsh to tell our sins to God and His priest—the one that children identify as a kidnapper, but once we break past that surface we can see how it is the simplest way to freedom and a new direction in our life of faith. The kingdom of heaven is at hand for us, all we have to do is have the courage to reach out and receive His mercy and be made new ready for the coming our Savior.