Jesus, John and Joy
This Sunday’s Gospel continues last week’s focus on John the Baptist and his role in preparing the way for Christ. John told his listeners that they cannot rely on their lineage as Israelites because children of Abraham can be raised up from stones. Repentance, rather, must be observable in one’s actions. 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.
When the crowd begins to wonder if John the Baptist might be the Messiah, John interprets his baptism and makes it clear that his ministry is in preparation for the Messiah. John the Baptist knows his place and role in God’s plan of salvation. By encouraging the crowd to act similarly in accordance with their stations in life, John’s teaching suggests that each person has a role to play in God’s salvation. (adapted from Loyola Press)
Every Advent we are blessed with many opportunities to live out the Good News of the Gospel in a special way. This year is no exception. There are opportunities all around us to proclaim God’s salvation just as John the Baptist did. We are called to turn away from selfish tendencies and to live as loving sisters and brothers of ALL of God’s people. It is striking to me that today, right here in Green Bay, we have so many people who are in great need. In Green Bay, a place that I once heard described as “a Catholic Disney World”, we have so many people who are hungry and homeless. We have children who do not have a bed of their own to rest their heads. And we have many immigrants and refugees who are struggling to find an opportunity for peace, safety, hope and a chance to live a productive and dignified life.
The question, of course, is how am I preparing for the coming of our Lord? Am I making an effort to strengthen my relationship with God? Am I serving my family, Church and community as best as I could be? Am I as charitable, compassionate, welcoming, just and fair as I am called to be?
The LORD IS COMING! We are each called to prepare a place for Him. The time to act has come.
The third Sunday of Advent is also called Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is a Latin word that means “rejoice.” This name is taken from the entrance antiphon for Sunday’s Mass, which is also echoed in today’s second reading from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Some people mark this Sunday by lighting a pink or white candle instead of a purple one on their Advent wreath. It is a reminder that the Advent season is a season of joy because our salvation is already at hand.
What an amazing blessing that has been given to us! God sent Jesus to die for our sins, to give us the path to eternal life with God in heaven. It is impossible to feel anything but pure JOY when we finally understand how great God’s love is. It is also impossible to contain the Good News when we give ourselves over to it. So go, tell it on the mountain and live it in the street!
Deacon Bill Gerl