John heralded Christ by proclaiming a baptism of repentance
Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
John the Baptist was very austere; he was an aesthetic whose love was for spiritual things. He was a God-fearing man. And it is very important to understand this to understand the meaning of his life. In the book of Acts we hear that his message is for all who fear God.
The idea of fearing God can upset modern sensibilities – pride can make people think they know better than thousands of years of Tradition. Some would prefer to think of God as some wonderful and awesome guy! However, Scripture and Tradition teach us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Without this fear we are prone to foolish life choices.
Should anyone be afraid of God because God might be bad to us? No. Then why is salvation only for those who fear God? What is there to fear? God isn’t mean or nasty and we know God loves us. It may be surprising to some but the reason we are actually afraid of God is because God is so good!
God is incredibly good, so good that we are created out of love and called to share in God’s life. But to share in God’s incredible happiness we, God’s family, must be incredibly good like God. There can’t be baddies in heaven.
Can you imagine heaven full of bullies, thieves, or really nasty mean-spirited people? Can you imagine heaven full of people who hated you and called you names? Nope, not going to happen! Do you see that these people can’t go to heaven if their hearts are full of hatred? Heaven wouldn’t be heaven because God calls us to abide in love and to be good to each other.
We are not afraid of God, we’re afraid we are not good enough to go to heaven. In fact we know it and this terrifies us – that is what the full gift of the fear of the Lord is. The fear is knowledge of not being good enough compared to God. It’s healthy. Who hasn’t been mean to someone, not stolen something, or not done something they know they shouldn’t have done? We should be afraid because we don’t have enough love in our hearts to be good all the time.
But that’s where Jesus is our best friend. Jesus will help us be good and he will forgive us our ‘bad.’ So, although it is healthy for us to fear God we trust in Jesus to make us super good people, so we may end up in heaven. Stick with Jesus and he will bring the love in our hearts to perfection. This love will drive out any fear.
So, on the one hand we trust in Jesus to take care of us. On the other, it is healthy to know we can do bad things. Fear of God will help us avoid doing bad things, lead us to doing what is right, and bring the love in our hearts to perfection.
This way of life, associated with the fear of God, is called the way of repentance. And John made it clear that Jesus’ followers had to produce fruit in keeping with repentance. Thanks be to God for John the Baptist who understood how good God is and then helped the people to prepare for Jesus’ coming by helping them change their life. May John the Baptist help us prepare to worthily receive Jesus in our hearts this morning.