Summary: It is better to be cleansed from the roots of evil than to be lead from the different forms of prisons that they build around us.
On the second Sunday of Advent, Mark 1.1-8 calls our attention to the person of John the Baptist. John is a figure of confrontation. This confrontation is interior in nature. It has to do with our inner self. It is the greatest challenge of cleansing ourselves innerly. Tom was a quite boy. His friend Bill fooled him often openly in the presence of others. When it became unbearable, Tom decided to confront Bill so that there could be a change in his attitude towards Tom in the future. This interpersonal exercise that we often undertake is what John the Baptist recommends to his hearers in relation to the unbearable interior elements that many of them not only harbour in themselves but also allow them to determine the way they live. We are invited to dig deep into ourselves, find the roots of many of our harmful habits and allow ourselves to be interiorly cleansed, so that God’s Word and His Grace may dwell in us and guide our life with one another.
Before Jesus begins his public ministry, as it is written in the book of Isaiah, the messenger appears to call people to prepare themselves, so that they are fully disposed to turn back to the core beliefs of their own religion. It became necessary to confront the shallowness of their practice of religion and covert it into a religion as God intended. Or vice versa! When they are converted, it is the conversion of their own religion. This conversion would lead them to a life of love, forgiveness, service and happiness on which they could construct completely a new life which would be continued by generations to come. Therefore the moment of the ministry of Christ was for the people of Judea the moment of salvation. An honest confrontation produces the fruit of conversion, a new life.
Frank sat in the prison and pondered over the moment in which he hit his colleague Donald in a fit of rage. Frank had worked in a furniture factory. He knew that his colleague Donald disliked him for the way he prospered in life. As he chiselled, dressed and shaped wood into beautiful furniture, he had always believed that that was what he was doing with his own life. One day Donald said something in reference to Frank’s insincerity in work and Frank hit him on his head. Donald lay in the hospital fighting for life and Frank was given a prison sentence. But as Frank now reflected, he discovered that he had never realized that there was such an evil power within him that would create a prison around his life. He was now confronted with this evil that he did not want.
The experience and realization of Frank are common to all humans. In fact we know little of ourselves. Only when we at times become rude or impatient or lose our politeness in our relation with others do we wonder and ask what is wrong with ourselves. We discover that there is something that boils within us, something that makes us restless, which tries to seek expression through violence. Such moments give us glimpses of what we have within us and the very things which we want to get rid of. And there are many more things in us that we do not yet know. Often they create different types of prisons for us. The prisons that we create are only signs of the evil that we possess and that we express. That is the reason why we still need prophets in our lives, who will lead us to confront ourselves and make us free and holy.
John the Baptist says, "I have baptized you with water; but Christ will baptize you with the Holy Spirit" [Mk 1.8]. Both Water as well as the Holy Spirit are presented as media of cleansing in order to make our life holy. Both are powerful symbols of purity, new life and holiness. The new life to which John the Baptist of Advent invites us begins with repentance through self-confrontation. Often the possibility of repentance comes at a time after we have lost what we have been passionately building up, as in the case of Frank. That we do not know much of the evil that is in us is no excuse. The evil powers that are alive in the lives of others around us are also signs of their existence in us, insofar as we are all humans. It is better that John the Baptist and Jesus cleanse us from the very powers of evil within us than to wait until we are lead out of the prisons that we gradually build up. Those who dream of such a blessed life can already begin with self-confrontation. Such a confrontation is nothing less than a divine visitation.