The Joy of Forgiveness
Vengeance is a dirty word, an unhappy state of mind. John the Baptist predicted the axe of vengeance and the fires of wrath. Yet Isaiah in the First Reading says of God’s vengeance, “He is coming to heal you.” In the mind of Jesus, vengeance did not mean punishment but a merciful love that is so much greater than evil that it offers forgiveness and healing.
There are two ways of facing the evils of the world. John the Baptist favoured what is called the apocalyptic approach. Things are so bad that there has to be a total clear-out … the axe cutting down the tree, the winnowing fan blowing the chaff away or the fire burning at the rubbish dump. Spurious visionaries are mesmerised by evil. Every so often we are warned about three days of darkness coming. The apocalyptic approach is impatient. It offers no hope.
The second attitude to evil is the prophetic approach. The prophet’s task is to unveil the presence of God in all situations. This was the approach of Jesus. Evil will not prevail because God is here. By his preaching and works of healing Jesus proved that he had conquered evil. And all shall be well.
“Of all the children born of women a greater than John the Baptist has never been seen.” The Baptist represents the peak of the time of preparation. But even he did not anticipate the overwhelming manifestation of God’s love and mercy. So, Jesus continued to say, “yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is.” The reign of God on earth is what Jesus preached … a kingdom of truth and love, a kingdom of justice, joy and peace.
Sometimes we will be tempted to think that evil has triumphed. In today’s Second Reading, St. James encourages us to be patient just as the farmer has to be patient between seeding and harvesting. “Do not lose heart for the Lord’s coming is soon.”
Our celebration of his Christmas coming is now very near.
Two suitable questions for Advent Reconciliation.
Where do I need divine healing?
Is there anybody to whom I owe forgiveness?