This Sunday we continued reading into Matthew - Chapter 3. This chapter focuses on John the Baptist, preparing the way for the ministry of Jesus. John is primarily interested in people changing their hearts and habits in a way that embraces God. Until John, the temple and priestly structure was still the primary way of relating to God. Instead of focused on change, it often focused on penance and paying sacrifices to appease God and mend your relationship with God. Similar to prophetic voices in the Old Testament, John declares that God is far more interested in changing our habits toward love, peace and salvation instead of paying money and blood to keep God "happy."
For Jesus to go to John, reminds us that Jesus was not interested in following the priests, but interested in the same things as John - change. 'Repentance' is too often confused with 'confession.' While you must confess your mistakes to repent, the biggest part of repentance is changing for the better. It is the continual spiritual practice of listening for God and choosing to keep turning towards God in our daily living. Jesus didn't hide from the Temple and priests, but he continually advocated a mending of all relationships, and a relationship of God that didn't make the Temple wealthy, but made Jews a better culture and religion. Jesus didn't want to be the next leader of the Temple, nation or empire. Jesus wanted to create God's vision for a better society, and a better way of people living together - all people!
As a way to pray, consider reciting Mary's prayer from Luke's story of Jesus' birth:
46 And Mary* said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
48 for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’