The crowds asked John the Baptist, “What then should
we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone
who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came
to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to
them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked
him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from
anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.” As
the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their
hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of
them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I
is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize
you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear
his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he
will burn with unquenchable fire.” So, with many other exhortations, he
proclaimed the good news to the people.
People from all places in Palestine flocked to the
Jordan to listen to the preaching of John the Baptist. Many people thought he
was a prophet from God. And there had had no prophet from God for over two hundred
years in Palestine. Others saw him as the promised Messiah.
However, the theme of his preaching was change of
heart and turn to God. It seemed that he asked the people to forget about their
political ambitions to look for a messiah to free them from the rule of the
Romans and to restore their country into its former glory as a great nation. Instead,
he called on them to turn to things spiritual and to free them from their sins
so that they could become sons of God.
His preaching touched them because they asked John the
Baptist how to change their hearts. He gave them the basic rule which was to be
charitable and to share with your neighbour. Among the people listening to John
the Baptist were two classes of people whom were despised most by the Jews: tax
collectors and soldiers. They also put up the question of “how to change” with
John the Baptist. In replying to their question, John the Baptist simply
reminded them to be just in what they did.
All people were amazed about what John the Baptist
preached and they began to look at him as the promised Messiah. So, they asked
him whether he was the Messiah. He pointed out that he only baptized them with
water, which was a symbol of interior cleansing. Though he was chosen by God to
be the precursor to prepare the way for Christ, he felt that he was not worthy
to be Christ’s most lowly servant, even not fit to tie Christ’s sandals.
John the Baptist continued to tell them how different
would be the Baptism to be conferred by Christ and that of his. Christ will
give the Spirit of God, a new breath of divine life to those who receive it at
Baptism. The spirit of God would make man and woman something greater: sons and
daughters of God. Christ’s cleansing will be done with fire to purify us. Finally,
John the Baptist pointed out that Christ will separate the good grain from the
useless chaff by using the image of winnowing fork.
Both John the Baptist and the people waited for the
coming of Christ. In their waiting, John continued to call on people to prepare
for the arrival of the long-awaited Messiah.
How we relate today’s gospel reading to us? Like
people at the time of John the Baptist, we are waiting for the second coming of
Christ. While we are waiting, we must prepare for such coming. How? We can go
back to the basic rule preached by John the Baptist in the beginning of the
gospel: be just.
We are Christians and we are the leaven of the world. What
does my lifestyle say about my faith in Christ? Do I hoard or share what I have
with others, especially those who are poor and on the margins of society? Amen.