“…When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees 7 coming to his baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
“Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance…..”
(Matthew 3:1–2, 7–8)
We’ll be getting to the familiar “Christmas story” two weeks from now. That’ll be Matthew 1:18–24, when Joseph learns that he’s involved in a very special mission. About that, apparently Joseph didn’t try to talk his way out of the assignment.
He got stuck with the job, anyway.
Isaiah wasn’t exactly thrilled at getting special attention, either. Jeremiah tried to talk his way out of being a prophet, and engaged in a frank discussion or two about his assignment later on; and that’s another topic. (Isaiah 6:5; Jeremiah 1:6; 20:7–18; 15:18)
John balked when Jesus wanted to be baptized, and for good reason.
He knew who — and what — our Lord is. The Son of God did not need baptism for himself. Our Lord’s baptism was a gesture “to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matthew 3:13–15; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1224)
So is recognizing that I need to be saved, and that gets me back to St. John the Baptist and vipers. He wasn’t telling the “brood of vipers” to come back with baskets of produce. Folks were being baptized “as they acknowledged their sins.” (Matthew 3:6)
A footnote explains that Pharisees were huge fans of the law. Scribes, experts in the law, were generally Pharisees.
The Sadducees were priestly aristocrats, mostly found in Jerusalem. They were gung ho about the law, too: but only what’s in the Pentateuch. They didn’t like the rest.
No wonder Pharisees and Sadducees freaked when Jesus showed up.
Our Lord boiled “the whole law and the prophets” down to ‘love God and your neighbor.’ We see that in Matthew 22:35–40. Jesus didn’t show them the deference they’d gotten used to, either. (Matthew 16:1–4; Mark 12:17; Mark 12:24)
That make sense to me. I don’t see the point in believing something is true, unless I act as if it matters. It’s like James1 wrote:
“You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble.
“Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless?
“Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?
“You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works.”
That happens more often than I like.
When it does, I could congratulate myself that I didn’t indulge in the “drinking bouts, orgies, and the like” cited in Galatians 5:21.
Or I could go full Holy Willie, asking God to smite folks I don’t like, while glossing over my own shortcomings. That sort of sanctimonious hypocrisy is a bad idea, and I shouldn’t do it. (Matthew 5:21–22, 23:1–12; Catechism, 2262, 2468)
Instead, I figure acknowledging that I messed up makes sense. Happily, the Church recognizes that we’re all sinners. And, like it says in the Apostles Creed, I believe in the forgiveness of sins. (Catechism, 827, 976–983)
Recognizing that I’ve sinned won’t do much good if I stop there.
“After John had been arrested, 8 Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“Hear the word of the LORD, O people of Israel, for the LORD has a grievance against the inhabitants of the land: There is no fidelity, no mercy, no knowledge of God in the land.”
“For the judgment is merciless to one who has not shown mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.”
I’m not a particularly spectacular sinner. I haven’t robbed a bank, murdered someone, or anything like that. But my low-profile lapses in living as if love matters add up. I recognize my need for mercy.
Getting baptized was an important first step; in my case, done while I was an infant. What I’m doing now is an ongoing inner conversion. It’s not just navel-gazing. I’m expected to live as if my repentance is real. (Catechism, 1422–1470)
And that’s yet again another topic.
More; mostly about love, mercy, and getting ready:
- “Advent and Being Prepared”
(November 27, 2016)
- “Celebrating Mercy”
(November 21, 2016)
- “Mercy: Still Practicing”
(November 20, 2016)
- “Satan Didn’t Make Me Do It”
(November 13, 2016)
- “Sin, Original and Otherwise”
(November 6, 2016)