Third Sunday of Advent (C)
The crowd, the tax collectors, and the soldiers came to John the Baptist. The crowd was the ordinary people; the tax collectors were the life blood of the government; the soldiers were those who protected the powers that be and, supposedly, the whole nation. They all had one question to the Baptizer: What should we do? Others also had another question: could he be the Messiah? John had simple answers: give to those who have none, do not be selfish; do not exact what is more than necessary; do not extort, defend the poor, the weak and the voiceless. Despite the respect accorded to him, he proclaimed that he was much lower than a slave, and his role was to be a voice, to prepare the way for the Word.
If we were to ask John the Baptist the same question, what would he say?
– To many he would have the same answers: you have resources, do not be selfish; do not exact more than what is necessary; do not extort, do not be addicted to power, defend the poor and the weak;
– To others he would say: do not waste food, water and electricity, for there are many who are needy; or forgive your father, mother, brothers, sisters and neighbors; or go to confession to seek the mercy of God; or cut your TV time and use it to pray; or spend less money, and spend more time with your family;
– Still to others, he would say: talk less and listen more; read the Scriptures, rather than read the minds of others and judge them rashly;
– And still to others, he would say: be faithful to your family and to the society instituted by God; do not kill the innocent and the defenseless; and be faithful to your jobs and responsibilities.
John the Baptist is teaching us practical virtues to live by:
- Charity. In this world, there will always be situations of need, and we have to respond to them. Every need that we respond to is a way to holiness and to eternal life, and we respond to Him who Himself is the way and who asked us to be holy as He is holy.
- Justice. As the basis of charity, each one is obliged, not only to give what is due to others, but also to return to God what is due to Him. To serve God in His creatures and one’s legitimate superiors, and to live upright and moral lives, rather than selfishly enriching oneself, are acts worthy of God Himself.
- Compassion. When Jesus said, “Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate, He meant that we should look to Himself, and learn from Him, for He is meek and humble of heart. We cannot use and abuse authority and influence to make ourselves superior to others, for we are all brothers in Jesus. It is a gift Jesus gives so we can protect the weak and the needy. It is also a gift that we can bring peace to troubled relationships and to the troubled world. It is as well a gift from Jesus that we can see life rising from situations of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Moreover, St. Paul, in the second reading, teaches us that, as we prepare for the coming of the Lord now and at the end of time, we also celebrate this joyful hope in our families:
- Life is worth living only in the Lord, and we should rejoice in the Lord always. Joy is the mark of Christians who live in charity, justice and compassion, for our kindness and joy should be known to all. Joy drives away the devil because the devil wants us to be sad, which is a way to perdition. Life is too short to be sad and to be unkind.
- Life is short and it is the Lord’s. Paul is exhorting us to have no anxiety at all, for it clouds the mind with what is temporal and temporary, and usually with what is not real.
- Yes, life is short, and we do not have anything that we can really claim as ours. And so, we ask the Lord for everything that we need. St. Paul tells us to do everything in gratitude: asking for anything, living life in good and difficult times, serving others and bearing hardships. Gratitude can make life happy, meaningful and bearable.
We see a beautiful example in Mary. She was a simple woman, and always sought the Will of God. At Bethlehem, She stooped down to Her Baby and Her King. At the foot of the cross, She carried in Her arms the weight of our salvation, and accepted the role to be the Mother of us all only to bring us back to Jesus.
So, we celebrate our life in Him as He gives Himself to us in the form of a little Bread, so that He can live in us and lead us back to His Father. Despite our weaknesses, He invites us to receive Him and strengthens our hope that leads us to crave for Him all the more.