The preaching of John the Baptist: Repentance


“John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Catholic edition RSV, Mark 1:4)

From his childhood St John the Baptist was conscious of the tremendous destiny for which God had created him – that he should be the new Elijah charged with the almost terrifying responsibility of preparing the Chosen People for the Coming of their Divine Saviour and Judge.  That destiny determined the manner and course of his whole life and in order to fit himself for it, he withdrew in his youth to the terrible wilderness of Judea to the south east of Jerusalem.

It is a place of unspeakable dreariness and desolation, quivering relentlessly with the heat; a barren waste of mountains and gorges, and cleft and pinnacled precipices, the whole land twisted into tortured shapes by the convulsions of the Earth’s crust that formed it millions of years ago.  From its ridges can be seen to the east the huge pit that is the Dead Sea, into which the River Jordan flows, nearly 1,300 feet below the level of the Mediterranean.

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