Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Repent
This was John's cry. Literally, a call to change our hearts, to start to think differently, to develop fresh attitudes concerning our religious lives. His role was to prepare the way of Christ and to identify Him as the Anointed One in whom could be found the fulfilment of people's expectations; and that call continues to echo down through the centuries to the present day and to us.

Isaiah 49: 1-6 - The passage from Isaiah's "Servant Song" stresses not so much the sufferings of the servant, but the servant's sacramental role to make known the power and the goodness of Yahweh. The servant is chosen by God before his birth, and his mission clearly stated - " to bring Jacob( Israel) back to Him".

Acts 13: 22-26: - Here, again, we see John's role being defined as the "Precursor" - to announce the imminent coming of the one who would take away the sins of the world - the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Christ.

Luke 1: 57-66, 80: The extraordinary events marking Elizabeth's conception continue after the child's birth - the circumcision, fulfilling the Law, the departure from tradition in naming the child, Zachary's recover of speech,‚‚  and the questioning "what will this child turn out to be"?

Point 1: All four gospels begin with a certain "John" who is called the Baptist. Initially, people saw in John a reminder of ancient times of grace and deliverance - the exodus from Egypt, the possession of the Promised Land, the Babylonian deliverance and the centuries of prophetic expectations yet to be fulfilled. There were those who even thought that with John the hour of expectation had arrived. Not so! He was only the herald summoning the people to "Prepare the way of the Lord" - the Precursor - the One who went before delivering a serious message - "Repent"; but at the same time, a joyful message announcing that the time of God's grace was close at hand.

Point 2: There are two wrong ways of understanding repentance. One is to think that purely external acts of penance are intended - tearing one's garments, sitting on dung hills, sprinkling of ashes etc. with no impact on attitudes to right and wrong. The other is to confine it to a purely internal attitude, again without any change in behaviour. John's notion of repentance was a change in thinking so profound that one's external behaviour reflected that change.

Acceptance of this call to repentance did not follow automatically. People could still say "yes" or "no" to the invitation. John is dominated by the thought that "He who comes" will be "for the rise and fall" of many. With his announcement of the coming of the God of grace, John equally announced the coming of the world's judge.

Conclusion: In this regard, nothing has changed; the message is still the same, only the messenger is different. And the manner in which the message is passed on remains the same - example! We are today's messengers and our life styles should reflect both the purpose and the joy of following Him who, in the words of John the Baptist "came to take away the sins of the world".

Scriptural reference: 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. (Matt. 11.11)