There is a well known piece of philosophical reasoning called, Pascal’s Wager, that comes into play in today’s Gospel, even though the man who coined it, Blaise Pascal, lived more than 1600 years after Christ. It goes something like this (to paraphrase). If God exists and I live as though he does not exist, then I stand to lose everything in the next life. If God does not exist but I live as though he does, I lose nothing. It reminds me of a time when I would attend a weekly businessmen’s breakfast. One morning, as I sat down at one of the tables, the conversation peaked my interest. It was religious oriented. As I listened, I became focused on one particular man’s language. I broke in and asked him if he was Catholic. Without hesitation, and with a smile, he replied, “Whatever it takes to get in!” We all laughed but I personally was troubled by what he said since it caused me to reflect on my own Faith while, at the same time, wondering how many Catholics might think like him.
In the Gospel, we hear John the Baptist criticizing the Sadducees and Pharisees for harboring this very same duplicity of heart. He can see into their hardness of hearts and know that they do not believe in the radical repentance he proposes but have come to be with him just in case he might be right. The Sadducees and Pharisees were, in a sense, covering their bets, to avoid any kind of loss.
It is a good point of reflection for each of us. It can be a profitable opportunity, in a purely religious sense, to examine our own Faith lives and determine how I can become more sensitive to God and His Will, while becoming less dependent on my personal and imperfect rationale.
Advent is a good time for pondering the meaning of my own existence and become stronger in my Faith.