The Kingdom of God is Near
When I told the nine recipients of the Pope Francis Award, from SPC School, that they were preaching the Word of God, they and their families might have been wondering ‘when did they preach?’. They were merely engaging in some service or another for the good of the community. Yet, in truth they are preachers of the Word of God, because, unlike other services, these students were doing it in the name of Jesus, and their service strengthened the Church, the Body of Christ. Their preaching was not so much with words, but action. Through their services, they were preparing the way for God to come into the lives of those who need it.
According to Matthew, John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus our Lord. He called the people to repent so that God can break into their lives. It is notable that he preached not in the crowded city of Jerusalem, but in the hard-to-reach wilderness. It was symbolic. To reach the dark corners of our lives where repentance and conversion are required is not easy. The easy way people take is to do some religious activities and consider themselves righteous. John rebuked such easy goers including important people like Pharisees and the Sadducees. Pharisees had the responsibility of taking the Word of God to where the Jewish people were. Sadducees were the priests of the temple of Jerusalem who did sacrifices for the people. The Pharisees and the Sadducees thought of themselves good enough to merit the Kingdom of God. But John rebuked them for not producing real fruits of the Kingdom. Our God is compassionate, and we are to share God’s compassion and mercy with others. Without producing such fruits, we cannot enter the Kingdom of God.
Despite his exalted role as a preacher, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah, and people flocking to him for baptism, John humbly submitted to the work and the person of Jesus. John may be popular, but it is Jesus, who came after him, stronger than him because he is filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus is to pour out the Holy Spirit on his disciples. Since God has broken into our humanity through Jesus, the Kingdom of God is near at hand. At our baptism, the Holy Spirit was poured on us for the first time. Now, in this in-between-time, waiting for the final reward of heaven, let us repent and enter the Kingdom of God. Like John, let us call our dear ones also to repentance so that they too will enter the Kingdom of God.