If I would only let Him in
“ When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, John said to them, “You brood of vipers! Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.”
When I read these words from today’s gospel, I think of them as a reprimand that Jesus is making toward those who hold onto their self-righteous, smug attitude and feel that they do not have a need for conversion in their life. And, surely, in the context of this gospel, this is what is happening. However, I invite you to see a deeper invitation in these words. Imagine Jesus saying, “If God has the power to be able to make a stone into a child of Abraham, imagine what God could do within you if you just let him.”
The Pharisees and Sadducees who came to the Jordan river to listen to John were motivated perhaps by curiosity, perhaps by a need to know what the voice of the anti-establishment was up to, or, perhaps even by a mild desire to confront that which needed to change inside their heart. But, like many of us, we are aware of our defects of character, but we equally feel a hopeless, helpless inability to do much about it. As John was preaching and people were being baptized in this water of repentance, maybe some of the Pharisees held back - not just out of a sense of superiority, but maybe out of a sense of despair thinking that there is not enough water in that Jordan River to wash me entirely clean.
Sometimes I feel that way when I hear a powerful preacher who is presenting me with the challenge to reform my life. I would like to, but these vices, these life-long issues, these deeply embedded struggles have such a grip on my heart that I don’t believe that change is possible. But here the Baptist is saying to us, “Listen, God who is mighty is capable of great things. The one who could turn these stones into children of Abraham could do incredible things – if you were only to let him.”
Now are you ready for some really good news? John was baptizing in water – a nice ritual through which people expressed their desire for a better, holier way of life. Would some grab onto that holiness? Perhaps some did – for a while. But, at the same time, John said, “Wait, one mightier than I is going to come and baptize you with the holy Spirit and with fire.” You who are now reading these words have been so baptized. The one who can change stones into children of Abraham now dwells in you – and yes, the change for which you hope and desire is now within reach because that same holy Spirit was given to you in Baptism and Confirmation. Receive that which is already given to you and believe that change is really possible.