Cardinal Blase J. Cupich

The Baptist: Our model for Advent

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

One of the novelties found in the readings introduced in the lectionary of the Second Vatican Council is the prominence given to John the Baptist in the second and third weeks of Advent. John is presented as a witness to the coming of Christ, the implication of which is that he serves as a model for how we are to prepare for the coming of Christ. We too are to be witnesses. In trying to understand what that means, three things strike me as noteworthy.

First, notice that John seems to come out of nowhere, without any title or privilege. He is a nobody, “a voice crying out in the desert.” Yet, there is no sense that he has to prove himself. He simply is sent to take up the torch passed to him by the prophets of old.

Advent is a moment to think of our lives in a similar way, lest we fall into one of two dangerous traps: thinking either that we are entitled or that we have to prove ourselves. We simply are those who are sent to take the torch of our faith and pass it on to those who come after us. When we do so, we can begin to let go of any sense of being entitled or having to prove ourselves. Our life has purpose because we have been sent to witness.

Second, John comes to make straight paths. He clears the way of any roadblocks and rough terrain. Life is tough for so many of our brothers and sisters, such that some lose hope and become discouraged. Advent calls us to look for ways to ease the sufferings of others and make it a bit easier for people to come to God.

Advent also provides us with a chance to reflect on how we may have created obstacles for people, either in terms of their relationships with others or with God. For instance, I am thinking of the number of studies on faith practices that reveal the negative effects that adult believers can have on young people who are scandalized by divisions in the church and the hypocrisy of preaching a message of love while acting in ways that seem destructive.

Finally, the Gospels present John as having a singular focus. He is sent to  prepare for the harvest and the bearing of fruit that will be signs of the coming of Christ: “Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. … He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Advent is a new season for us to take up the task of growing in new ways, which could mean becoming more involved in our parish, feeding the hungry by volunteering at a food pantry, giving to a clothing drive, visiting the sick or any of the corporal works of mercy. But it also means helping others to grow, encouraging a child, calling on a person who is homebound, saying thanks to those who help us. The point is not to let our faith lives become stagnant, not to convince ourselves that we are done growing in our faith.

In these Advent days, John offers us an example of how to prepare for the coming of Christ.

•  Fix in our minds that we have been sent to pass on the torch of faith,

•  clear the path for others to make it easier for them to come to Christ, never becoming a stumbling block for them

•  and take up the journey of faith with fresh legs, always showing concern for others who need to be accompanied and inspired to do the same.

May you and your loved ones have a blessed Advent.


  • advent