St. John the Baptist’s call for men to repent, seek holiness and prepare for Messiah’s judgment. Every Catholic man can grow in happiness by building the Virtue of Studiousness so he can better study and imitate St. John the Baptist and by growing in the Virtue of Self-control so he can prepare for his coming Judgment. 

Commentary

Isaiah, a martyred prophet who lived 700 years before the birth of Jesus, accurately foresees that the coming of the Messiah will be announced by one who is “crying in the wilderness”, saying, “Prepare the way of the Lord…” ; Isaiah foresees John the Baptist. A fiery prophet, John the Baptist lived an austere and rugged exodus in the wilderness like the great prophet Elijah, courageously preaching by the Jordan River (2 Kings 2:6-11), wearing similar clothing (2 Kings1:8) and fasting (Mk 2:18). Jesus confirms (Mt 11:14) John the Baptist also fulfills the prophesized return of Elijah (Mal 4:5). 

John the Baptist’s holiness and powerful preaching attracted a large audience of Jews from Jerusalem and the surrounding area who longed for the Messiah. After harshly warning of the coming Judgment (v 7-9, omitted from the Liturgy), the frightened crowd asks how to repent. The Baptist commands them to generously share their meager possessions. The Baptist baptizes even the hated tax collectors and soldiers; he instructs the tax collectors to do their job, but not over-collect, and for the soldiers to not rob with violence or false accusation. 

John the Baptist, revealed by Jesus to be the greatest of men born of women (Mt 11:11), has a deep poverty of spirit, a humility which acknowledges his lowliness; he publicly reveals that he is less worthy than the lowest slave compared to Jesus. John accurately prophesies that his baptism will be eclipsed by Jesus’ baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire at the Pentecost. Warning of the coming Judgment, John reveals that Jesus is coming to sort men into either those saved for eternal life (the granary), or those punished and sent to Hell (unquenchable fire). 

Be awed by Jesus Christ

During Advent, some mistakenly focus exclusively on the “little baby Jesus”, “tender and mild”, who is “sleeping in heavenly peace.” Soberly consider the frightening aspects of Jesus revealed by John the Baptist: Son of Man, Jesus is so great, that John, the greatest of men, deems himself to be unworthy to touch His feet; Son of God, Jesus will use His Divine Power to place the Holy Spirit into the souls of baptized men, an astounding supernatural gift that can fundamentally change a man’s eternal destiny; Divine Judge, Jesus judges men, allowing fruitful men to enter into Heaven (wheat/granary), and condemning sinful men to Hell (chaff/burn in unquenchable fire).    

Study and Imitate John the Baptist

Realize: John the Baptist is the fearsome “Prophet of the Most High”, the greatest prophet who prepares the way for Jesus. 

Believe: Reflect upon John the Baptist (CCC 486, 523, 535, 608, 678, 696, 717-720, 1223).

Pray: Jesus, Author of Scripture, help me build the Virtue of Studiousness (a part of Temperance) so I study Scripture and meditate on the life of John, and I am moved to strive to imitate John’s awe, zeal, and reverence for You.

Grow in Self-control to prepare for your Judgment

Realize: Even as a meek little child at the Nativity, Jesus is already a mighty King who is heralded by a host of angels (an army of supernatural creatures) and is later publicly proclaimed by the ferocious John the Baptist to be a Divine Judge who will judge every man. 

Believe: Reflect upon your own coming Judgment (CCC 678-682, 1021-1022, 1038-1041).

Pray: Jesus, Perfection of Temperance, help me build the Virtue of Self-Control (a part of Temperance) so I strive to battle against my sins, I perform many Works of Mercy, and I do my best to prepare for my own unavoidable Judgment.