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Isaiah is considered the prophet of Advent, announcing the arrival of the messianic king (cf s1S#8 Messiah), a just and God-fearing descendant of David. His reign will be an era of justice on behalf of his people and a return to the harmony and peace of Eden, (cf first reading, Is 11:1-10, taken from the section of the book known as the book of Immanuel).

John the Baptist is Isaiah’s New Testament counterpart, in whom the fulfillment of what he prophesied begins (Mt 3:1-12). Thus at his first appearance, he announces that the reign of the messianic king is “at hand”, (v.2, cf 4: 17 where Jesus himself proclaims it).

The term used is from the verb éngizō ( έγγιζω ) meaning ‘to bring near or be near, or approach’. If taken as a Hebraism it may mean ‘have come, be here’. So some scholars would prefer to translate it as “fast approaching” than simply “is near, or at hand” to underline the nuance of something urgent.

With that note of urgency, the Baptist calls for repentance (cf s1S#60). Colored already by a Christian understanding, it means morally a fundamental change of direction from sin to God, expressed through a purification rite of baptism with water, common to the Essenes at Qumran and other groups at that time.

In Greek baptism means literally “dripping in liquid”, and in Mediterranean antiquity, water, fire, and wind (or spirit) were viewed as liquids that could be poured upon or into people. Addressing the Pharisees and the Scribes John opposes their hypocrisy and religious formalism and declares that blood linkage with Abraham is not sufficient, challenging the biological basis of honor and urging a moral basis instead. Not who one is but what one does should be paramount. Radical and deeply internal, it requires a change both of heart and mind, and it is externalized in the fruit it produces. Only conversion and its fruits assure salvation (vv7- 10). This baptism of John will be superseded by that of Jesus.

It will be an immersion in the cleansing and purifying power of God’s Spirit, the gift of God’s very own life (v11), thus making all the baptized God’s children.

Seasons like this make us so preoccupied with so many things that the urgency of the call to repentance is usually ignored. And if Christ’s reign is a reign of justice and peace, we ask ourselves- is our conversion then producing such fruits? Remember true conversion is reflected in life: “by their fruits, you will know them”.

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Veritas Editorial

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

President of Radio Veritas

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