Tuesday of the Third Week in Advent
(Zephaniah 3:1-2, 9-13; Matthew 21:28-32)
In his book on faith historian Paul Johnson tells of a fire-and-brimstone preacher who had to change his tune. The preacher said that in his early years people packed the churches and hung on his words. But with a new era (the 1970s or so) similar congregants no longer believed in the ravages God supposedly racks on sinners.
John the Baptist seems to have a similar difficulty, at least with the more sophisticated type of listener. According to today’s gospel his warnings about hellfire cause at least some publicans and prostitutes to change their ways but the self-righteous ignore him. Today we imagine these sophisticates making excuses for their sins like the delinquents in West Side Story: “I’ve got a social disease”
Jesus, however, assures us that there is no excuse for not repenting. Each of us is in constant need of repair to extract prejudice, carelessness, and pride. That he is here to help us is what Christmas is all about.