Daily Office Readings for Friday of Proper 18 Year 1
“But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.” (Matthew 3:7 – 9)
I don’t know where John the Baptist learned hospitality. “You brood of vipers” is probably not the most welcoming invitation one could use to encourage folk to repent. Of course he is talking to Pharisees and Sadducees, who are perhaps the greatest critics of what he is doing. Luke’s Gospel gives a more detailed ‘back and forth’ between John and questioning participants. (Luke 3: 10 – 14)
There are two points that need to be learned here. First, he says “bear fruit worthy of repentance.” This means a change in life style in such a way that you would never repeat the misdeed or sin that caused the separation from God’s will in the first place. God wants us to love God and one another. Any act of commission or omission should bother us so much that we wished we could roll back time and change the situation. But we can’t. We must then, make sure it never happens again. The fruit of this repentance is asking for forgiveness. It is a bitter fruit but it is medicine for the soul. The offended party may not forgive you. That is out of your control. But their resistant attitude does not excuse you from seriously apologizing anyway.
Second, no one has a free pass. John cautions them to not use the Abraham lineage as an automatic pass to whatever they might do or not do. Abraham heritage is not one of biology but rather, of faith. Today we can extend that false biological heritage identity further. Being white, or black, or any ethnicity does not give us any advantage in God’s eyes. God can raise people in the faith of Abraham from any human population. We are called to believe, live and love accordingly.
Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through God’s people and ponder anew what the Almighty can do. John+