Hope In A Messiah
Second Sunday of Advent
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 3:1-12.
John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea
(and) saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said: “A voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.'”
John wore clothing made of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.
At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him
and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.
When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.
And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.
Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire.
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.”
We all believe in a higher power. When computers started to become prevalent we thought that technology could further advance our civilization. And it did. As digital technology became smaller and smaller and moved from the desktop to the mobile we believed it would revolutionize the way we communicated. And it did. We thought that somehow, the better our technologies become the better the world we live in would be. We were wrong.
New technology bring with it advancements. It makes lives easier and speeds up development. But it also brings with it a whole new set of problems. Before the internet, the question of privacy is limited to the size and transparency of the window. Today, privacy is a battleground between the netizens and the surveillance groups, be it the state or not. WiFi availability is now one attraction for public spaces. Bullying has spilled online. Technology like any human tool is amoral. It brings with it its own solutions and its own unique set of problems.
We have always believed in technology. This is an indication that we believe in some higher power, something to carry us forward through the daily grind and the rough conditions of human existence. For some, technology have become their messiah, their savior, to which they invest resources in order to solve human problems. Human history, however, has shown that human technology while propelling civilization forward cannot be the sole solution. Human problems remain human. They come from human beings, perpetrated by human beings, and is to be solved by human beings. No other part of creation could solve our own problems except collective human effort.
Pope Benedict would point this out when he describes how humanity today is building a “kingdom of man” rather than the Kingdom of God. It is a kingdom whose chief architect is man and designed to build a utopia where human problems are past. Down through history, civilizations and religions have sought out a higher power to save humanity from its misery. Israel too yearned for a messiah, a savior for which the Prophet Isaiah spoke God’s promises of salvation. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace forever.
John the Baptist would echo this with much urgency. A savior is indeed coming, a savior not made by man but coming from God. He is not to build an earthly kingdom, a kingdom of man, but a kingdom of heaven, a Kingdom of God. This savior will not just bring solutions but will strike at the very root of the problem – the sinfulness of man. John the Baptist’s call then is justified: repent!
The world that this savior will usher forth is so incompatible with ours that they are mutually exclusive. For this world to conform itself to the Kingdom of God the Spirit is to be invoked. Thus this Savior will baptize with the Spirit who is fire that purifies and burns the impurities. It is the Spirit that transforms man to the real humanity that God envisioned in him.
Jesus is that Savior foretold by John. He alone was filled with the Spirit. In the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the work of the Son and the action of the Spirit is gloriously revealed to us as the two hands of the Father working through humanity. Even God knew that human problems are solved humanely and that is why He sent His Son to become man – the perfect and ideal man who could teach us how to be truly human. Jesus will baptize the man and the world with the Spirit that it may be transformed to what it should be, the Kingdom of God.
How is this Kingdom seen today? Where Christians work for peace and sow love; where Christians bear with one another and forgive to end the cycle of hatred and war; where Christians go beyond themselves to become Jesus to others today – this is the ushering in of the Kingdom of God, this is the cleansing movement of the baptism of the Spirit. And as John points out to the Pharisees and Sadducees, this change must come from within, must come first from a personal transformation.
There would always be problems in the world. Suffering it seems is a consequence of human brokenness that manifests in each one of us. Technology would help, certainly, but it can never be the savior for humankind. We cannot craft our own salvation. We need a higher power and this higher power will come down among us to teach us how to be human. And in becoming human, we become a Kingdom of God.