Today’s readings present one of the major challenges of our life of faith. It is the challenge to continue to listen to God’s Word, to what He is saying. God’s Word is sometimes full of sweetness, and sometimes it produces bitterness and leaves a bad taste in our mouths and in our souls. God has a wonderful message to present to us about love, salvation, and friendship with Him, and He has also has a difficult message about the obstacles that can exist to that friendship. We hear three messages of caution today and are invited to pay attention to how we listen to and receive God’s Word – what He is saying to us.
Today’s Gospel brings us to the beginning of Christ’s apostolic life and ministry. The Third Luminous Mystery is a meditation on this specific moment in the life of Christ. Before Christ’s parables, before Jesus begins to teach us more clearly about His relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit – before He tells His disciples about His coming death and Resurrection – He calls to conversion. In a lot of ways He simply continues the message of John the Baptist, the main thing that changes is the urgency. While it was urgent for the Jews to convert when John the Baptist was preaching, preparing for the imminent arrival of the messiah, it becomes even more imperative when the true identity of Jesus is made known at His Baptism. Now it is no longer, “get ready because the messiah is almost here,” instead it is, “now the messiah is standing right in front of you: behold the Lamb of God.” Jesus says, “repent because the Kingdom of Heaven is now here, present in your midst.” Jesus Himself is the Kingdom of Heaven – those He calls to join Him and who attach themselves to Him enjoy already the peace that only God can give.
As the liturgical year closes and we open the beginning of something new with Advent, the call to conversion becomes more imperative. Yes, there is a sense of dread when we think of the end of the world, the end of time, the second coming of Christ. There is a sense of dread when we look at our lives and how little we’ve done to respond to God’s grace and His call upon our lives. The first reading points out this terrifying realization: with all the freedom you’ve given us Lord, we’ve multiplied our transgressions and used the time you’ve given us for ourselves and haven’t given You a second thought. What’s worse, we don’t even feel remorse anymore! We cannot even shed a tear when we give in to our pride, our anger, our lusts, our focus on worldly pursuits and greed. Our hardness of heart frightens us – who will save us from our awful habit of crime? Our vices outnumber and outweigh our virtues! You have reminded us of our condition, but you have abandoned us to the things we have chosen. You give us no help against temptation because it is what we have truly desired and chosen and you are a just God who respects our freedom.