Third Sunday of Advent, 11th December 2022

Matthew 11:2–11

When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me.” As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”


The Church brings John the Baptist, the man who prepared the people for Christ’s public mission, before our minds today, as an example that we should follow, even if only from afar.

John prepared himself for the task of welcoming and introducing Christ to others, by a life of self-mortification and penance. He told the people that the first essential for meeting Christ, and profiting by his coming was that they should turn away from sin and give up any evil ways, which hitherto they had followed. He himself practiced what he preached and his preaching, therefore, bore fruit among many of his hearers. Four of the twelve apostles became followers of Christ because of the Baptist’s example and preaching.

John is calling on us too today, to prepare ourselves for Christ’s coming this Christmas, by turning away from sin, and by the mortification of ourselves in many ways. We are not expected to wear the rough camel-hair dress he wore, and eat nothing but locusts and wild honey. But each of us can restrain the excessive luxuries of the palate, in which we often indulge, and use the money, thus saved, to help those who are short of the necessities of life, in far too many parts of today’s world. Many of us, too, could look through our wardrobes and find garments we can will do without. These could help to keep the wintry blasts from our poor, shivering fellowmen or women this Christmas.

Most of us feel touched, when we see the baby Jesus lying, half-naked, on the rough straw in the stable. But to do something for him, we need not wish we were there on that first Christmas. We can do it for his suffering brothers and sisters this Christmas, and he himself tells us if we do that we are doing it for him.

In repenting of our sins, the first necessary step if we want to welcome Christ into a pure heart and into our Christian homes, let our conversion and resolutions be firm, as was the resolute stand of John the Baptist. He was not a reed that was shaken by every wind, and we too must stand firm against the temptations of the world, the flest and the devil, if we are to remain worthy of the name of Christian. John the Baptist suffered martyrdom for his faith and convictions. Few, if any, of us will be called on to lay down our lives for our faith, but we are all called on to live for it, and with it, every day of our lives.

This may demand sacrifice nowadays, when our permissive society derides and looks down on those still trying to live according to the old-fashioned Ten Commandments. But we must not only be ready to accept this derision; we must do all in our power, by word, prayer and example, to get our erring neighbor to see that virtue does pay in the end.

We have much in this story of John the Baptist which should help us to welcome Christ properly this Christmas. Think of the Baptist today, and listen to the message he has for you. If you do your best to put it into practice, the good, merciful Lord himself will do the rest for you. He came to save sinners. He came to save you. If you cooperate and do your part, you will hear, on your judgment day, the joyful words of Christ: “You are more than a prophet, you are a citizen of heaven – a saint.” Amen,