Gospel Meditation


“Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.” John the Baptist does not mince words. He tells it like it is. When the hypocritical Pharisees and Sadducees show up piously for baptism, John calls them out, saying, “You brood of vipers!” Not welcoming words, to say the least. Then he tells them that being part of the religious club (i.e., children of Abraham) isn’t enough. No, “every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

It can be easy to join John in pointing fingers at those self-righteous religious leaders. But we’re usually not so quick to point fingers at ourselves. On this Second Sunday of Advent, as we seek to prepare for the coming of Christ, we also need to hear John’s solemn warning. How are we like these Pharisees? How have we excused ourselves because we are part of the “club,” because we are baptized Christians, regular churchgoers, better than others, or whatever justification we use to declare ourselves in good shape? How have we failed to produce good fruit by being satisfied with a comfortable life and a routine practice of the faith? What do we need to change? Where do we need to grow? How do we need to reach out and serve others, to sacrifice sinful behaviors, to delve deeper into our love for the Lord?

John preaches today that God will “gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Advent is a gift from the Church–a time to renew our spiritual life by getting rid of the chaff in our souls and producing instead a fruitful harvest. Now is the time to do this work. As John tells us, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”