2nd Sunday of Advent
What does it mean to be worthy? There are a few different ways to approach this question. Today’s Gospel highlights two: the way of the Pharisees and the way of John the Baptist. Our faith values good works and discipleship. Perhaps, then, we “earn” our worth by adhering to the right doctrines and following the right pious practice. The Pharisees thought they were worthy. Due to their religious pedigree and proper procedures, they were self-satisfied. John the Baptist’s words to them are strong. “Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’” Of course, Jesus (and John) don’t omit the responsibility for moral behavior. John gives the Pharisees quite a strong warning in that regard. “Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance … every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
It’s a question of attitude. Of disposition. It’s a matter of the heart. If anyone would be worthy in this scenario, it’s John the Baptist. Jesus Himself will name him the greatest of prophets and a great man. John, however, recognizes his own lowly place in the grand scheme of things. “The One Who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry His sandals.” The Pharisees take pride in being “better” than others. John embraces humility in Christ being “better” than him. We don’t self-generate our own worthiness. We receive it as a gift from God.
In a few short weeks, we’ll celebrate the birth of Christ. Venerable Bishop Fulton Sheen wrote about the Nativity in his “Life of Christ”: “Because [Jesus] was born in a cave, all who wish to see Him must stoop. To stoop is the mark of humility. The proud refuse to stoop and, therefore, they miss divinity.” God invites us to prepare our hearts this Advent. When you consider your own life, where are you looking for your worth? This Christmas, are you prepared to stoop?