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cappie

THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT

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cappie

This Sunday's Gospel continues last week's focus on John the Baptist and his role in preparing the way for Christ. In today's Gospel reading, the crowds ask John the Baptist for specifics. What evidence of repentance is required? John replies by naming concrete actions: crowds should share their food and cloaks; tax collectors should be just; soldiers should act fairly. 

John the Baptist knows his place and role in God's plan of salvation. By encouraging the crowd to act  in accordance with their stations in life, John's teaching suggests that each person has a role to play in God's salvation. It is the great mystery of our salvation that God permits and even asks for human cooperation in his divine plans.

This passage shows the diversity of the group. The crowd seems to represent the Jews who have enough; the tax collectors, the outcasts; and the soldiers, the gentiles. They all seek to change their lives. Even though John is harsh in the beginning, he gives advice to them all. John’s advice is not dramatic, he just asks them to turn from what they are doing their own way, and instead to start doing things the right way—God’s way.

The people want to change and are waiting for their Messiah to come. With John’s urgent teaching, they suspect him to be that Messiah, but he knows his call is to clear the way for the real one to come. John is to introduce the coming of Jesus, guiding people to see God’s way. He tells the people that the Messiah, the Christ, is coming with the Holy Spirit and fire. Jesus the Christ will come with the power and great might of God to be among us. The great fire is to cleanse us from our wrongdoings.

John the Baptist is teaching us to care for those in need, to seek justice, and to have integrity. Actually, those are part of what following Jesus the Christ is about. With true repentance to prepare for the coming of the Messiah, rejoice!

John the Baptist is preaching in the wilderness, a place where one may get lost, a barren place that seems to have no life or hope. Wilderness is a good metaphor for us right now. We are in a world bombarded by media, especially social media. We are certainly bewildered by news and fake news, truth and alternate truth. There seems to be no peace in the world. Natural disasters seem to be occurring more often than usual. Hope seems to be dwindling in the world. We Christians need to ask a question: “What should we do?”

We should carry the prophetic voice of John the Baptist.  We should change our way of life. The gap between the “haves” and “have-nots” is increasing in society; are we willing to share with those with less? Or are we to continue taking more from others who are already struggling to fill their pockets? Are we to continue to benefit ourselves? Are we to elevate our status at the expense of hurting others? Are we to offer false accusations by telling half-truths or even totally lying? Are we willing to call out ourselves and those who do these things?

John the Baptist has given us the direction to be prepared for the coming of Christ. Are we willing to turn around? Are we courageous enough to hear and heed his prophetic voice? 

As a result of John’s preaching, the people were “filled with expectation.” Do we have this effect on the people that we encounter.  In our spiritual lives, we are called to confident hope, which is not wishful thinking; it is the rock-solid belief that God’s grace is available to us and will not let us down as long as we take advantage of it. We are called to share this confident hope and joy with others and to let our actions speak loudly of the joy we find in Christ our Saviour.  

 And as we approach the Christmas season, think of someone in your own life who is sad, or lonely, or hurting, and pledge to say or do something to help bring God’s healing love into their lives. Invite them for a coffee, or a meal. Pay them a visit. Phone them. Show them that they are not alone.

Bear God’s love on your lips and in your lives – and let it overflow into the lives of others, that they, too, may be drawn to God’s love, in Jesus’ name.


 

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