In due course John the Baptist appeared; he preached in the wilderness of Judaea and this was his message: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’ This was the man the prophet Isaiah spoke of when he said:
A voice cries in the wilderness:
Prepare a way for the Lord,
make his paths straight.
This man John wore a garment made of camel-hair with a leather belt round his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judaea and the whole Jordan district made their way to him, and as they were baptised by him in the river Jordan they confessed their sins. But when he saw a number of Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism he said to them, ‘Brood of vipers, who warned you to fly from the retribution that is coming? But if you are repentant, produce the appropriate fruit, and do not presume to tell yourselves, “We have Abraham for our father,” because, I tell you, God can raise children for Abraham from these stones. Even now the axe is laid to the roots of the trees, so that any tree which fails to produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown on the fire. I baptise you in water for repentance, but the one who follows me is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to carry his sandals; he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fan is in his hand; he will clear his threshing-floor and gather his wheat into the barn; but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out.’
Fire. It is an inescapable reality for humanity. We can either embrace the Baptism of Fire from the Lord, or burn with the fire of loneliness, isolation, and despair for all of eternity. One way or the other, it seems, we will burn within. The Baptism of Fire is the purging within of all that is dross. The fire is the fire of love of God. Our love drives us to purify ourselves by cooperating with grace. We cannot do it alone, as salvation is the work of God, not man. That’s why John speaks of the baptisms of water, Holy Spirit, and fire. They are all the work of God in our lives, requiring us to open ourselves to learning authentic love.
John also speaks of Jesus separating the wheat from the chaff: the life-containing kernel that is at once food and source of new life from the indigestible and useless outer shell and husk. The ancient techniques of winnowing wheat from chaff are still used today. Toss the wheat in he air and allow the breeze to blow away the useless and papery chaff, as the dense kernels drop straight down. What an apt analogy.
The chaff of humanity are driven by their passions and narcissistic impulses as chaff in the wind. They never learn love, which is sacrificial and other-oriented. And that brings me to what has always intuitively rubbed me raw about radical feminism.
It is all about the self. I recall the 70’s and 80’s when I read Brown, Gilligan, de Beauvoir, Friedan, and the rest of the gang. It always impressed me as a profoundly sad and loveless existece. They were right to decry the denigration hurled at them, and the flippant suggestion that they be good little home makers. However, their response was murderous rage, and 53 million babies in this country have been slain in the name of women’s rights, of economic advancement and educational advancement of women. It’s been all “rights” and no “responsibilities”.
It’s been the fire of vengeance, and it must be brought to an end.
Looking beyond our shores, the only rights that I have ever seen the radical feminists arguing for are the rights of third world women to slaughter their babies in the womb. U.S. aid is consistently tied to demands for “comprehensive” birth control in these nations. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I’ve never seen the radical feminists go after the Isamic leaders who keep women down with Sharia law.
I’ve never seen them lead the charge against the tin horn dictators who gorge themselves on US aid, and preside over the servile treatment of women.
I’ve never seen the UN and the feminists attempt to tie financial aid to the development of education for women and the creation of more just working conditions for women.
Just abortion and birth control.
Nihilism: nonexistence and slaughter.
The ice-cold absence of love. The hatred of nurture.
If we are to prepare the way of the Lord, we must begin by looking within, first. Then we must do what love demands, we must speak out for the poor and the least. We must champion those who have no champion, lest love collapse on itself into selfishness and narcissism. Today’s Gospel makes it clear.
We are all going to burn with one of two fires; love or despair. While we live, the choice remains ours.