Below is an excellent commentary by Fr Denny Dempsey on this Sunday’s gospel
“Whether people’s going out to see John the Baptist was motivated by curiosity or faith, many of them experienced conversion with a desire to live more in order with God’s will. Thus we hear groups of tax collectors and soldiers asking what they should do to live more in accord with God’s will All of us are called to seek and follow the general will of God for everyone. Yet each person, given his or her specific life situation, will have some specific aspects of God’s will to which he or she must be particularly attentive. What particular things would John point out for you, were you to be there asking as were those tax collectors and soldiers?
John makes clear that he is not the Messiah. He is the messenger announcing the imminent coming of the Messiah who will baptize with the “Holy Spirit and fire.” While we relate that image specifically to the Pentecost event, the significance of the holy Spirit and fire here is more generic. Fire is a symbol of purification or refining, representing the need for repentance and reform. Accepting the call to reform, the crowd has been asking John for clarification of specifically how to fulfill God’s will. Divine inspiration and guidance is the work of the Holy Spirit. In our Advent time of preparation, may we take this to heart, accepting the call to reform, orient our lives to God’s will more perfectly, and present ourselves as more perfect offerings in thanks to Jesus at his coming.”
Pastor’s note: The sacrament of reconciliation is available from 3.30pm – 4.15pm each Saturday afternoon in Advent, at St Philip’s church, by request , and during the healing and reconciliation service on Wednesday 16th December at 7pm at St Philip’s