During midday Mass today, the celebrant offered us interesting food for thought during the homily. He presented to us the account from Genesis about the temptation of Eve (and, subsequently Adam) by the serpent. Our celebrant used the example from one of the National Geographic specials to drive home his point. When a lizard preys upon a beast larger than itself, he bites the animal's lower limbs. While the bite does not cause instant death, the poison emitting from the lizard's teeth makes it's way into the prey's blood stream and infects it. Death is sure to follow.
Our celebrant applied this example to what happened to Adam and Eve. While the serpent did not sink his fangs into Eve, he managed to bite into her soul, and Adam's too, inflicting it with the poisonous venom of sin. This sin, which ultimately leads to death, is passed on like some sort of spiritual gene to our souls. It is this sin that does not allow us to fully see God and to fully experience what it means to live. Sin causes us to only look at ourselves and not at others, including and especially God. It was sin that skewed the pereceptions of the folks in today's Gospel account who found reasons to dismiss both Jesus and St. John the Baptist. Sin clouded their judgment, much as it clouds ours today. It's the result of the poisonous venom that the serpent, in this case, Satan, injected into the soul.
But, unlike the wilderbeast that succumbs to the lizard's poison, God presents us with an antidote to sin's venom, first through the Sacrament of Baptism and then, as often as we are able to receive it, the Sacrament of Penance. St. John the Baptist already gives us this framework. In last week's readings, John preached repentence and baptized those who came forward for the forgiveness of their sins. This was a foreshadowing of these two sacraments to be instituted by the True Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.
Even though, it is appointed that all of us must die because of the effects of original sin, these sacraments, along with reception of the Holy Eucharist, give life to the soul. The sacraments also help fortify our souls to be able to at least make a valid attempt at resisting temptation, and, even when we do fall, these same sacraments give us that joyful hope that we are not altogether lost.
Perhaps this is Advent's true message. Just as St. John the Baptist encouraged Ancient Israel to repent and seek reconciliation for God in preparation for the Messiah's arrival, so does the Baptist reach across time and space to our generation (and every generation) calling us to that same repentence and reconciliation as we prepare for the Messiah's ultimate and final arrival.