There’s a parenthetical sentence that comes right at the end of today’s Gospel reading that really ought to give us pause. Once again, it says this:
(All the people who listened, including the tax collectors,
who were baptized with the baptism of John,
acknowledged the righteousness of God;
but the Pharisees and scholars of the law,
who were not baptized by him,
rejected the plan of God for themselves.)
That tells us something about John’s baptism and something about God. The baptism that Saint John the Baptist preached was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. John’s baptism was slightly different than what we have received, in that his baptism was given after a person accepted the need of repentance in their lives. What it tells us about God is that his mercy calls us to repentance. Because when we repent, we literally turn around and go back in the right direction: the direction that leads us to him.
In our first reading, the prophet Isaiah also speaks of the change that God desires to make in the people of Israel, and, actually, us too. He wants to completely renew them, bringing them back to their first love and making a new marriage covenant with them. We know that the person who does that is our Lord, the one whose coming we long for in these Advent days. Of that promise, Isaiah says:
My love shall never leave you
nor my covenant of peace be shaken,
says the LORD, who has mercy on you.
If we want to know what love and mercy look like, all we need to do is to look at the manger and look at the cross. Our Lord comes to give us what we need to be renewed in his mercy. May he come quickly and not delay! Come, Lord Jesus!