Third Sunday of Advent (Year C)
December 16, 2018
Luke 3, 10-18
And the crowd asked John, “What then should we do?” He said to them in reply, “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He answered them, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.” Soldiers also asked him, “And what is it that we should do?” He told them, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.” Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah. John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people.
Today, the Third Sunday of Advent, we also celebrate the first Mass of the Misa de Gallo, the dawn masses that serve as a nine-day novena to prepare for the coming of the Savior. The first reading from the prophet Zephaniah depicts the joy of Israel in anticipation of the Lord being in their midst. The second reading from the letter to the Philippians also describes the rejoicing when the Lord is near. In the Gospel, we hear John the Baptist exhorting the people in many ways as he preaches the good news of the Lord’s coming to his people.
John proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The people who responded to John’s preaching were not religious leaders willing to repent and be baptized. They were ordinary people, soldiers and tax collectors. John told them to have a selfless concern for disadvantaged brothers and sisters. The fruits of repentance can manifest in our sharing of what we have with the needy, feeding the hungry, refusing to cheat others in our negotiations with them, making sure we never use our money and power to oppress the least, the lost and the last – the most vulnerable among us. We have to heal the split between our faith and the expected morality that stems from it.
John the Baptist is a model for us. We have to prepare for the coming of the Messiah, but we are not the Messiah. We have to lead others to faith in Jesus. Have our words and actions caused others to talk to us and allowed us to point them to Jesus? We have to challenge them to repent, so that they too will be prepared for the coming of the Lord at the end of time, when he will judge the living and the dead. John would meet a violent death as a direct result of his preaching. His followers are also called to share his death and rising. We should be ready to do likewise if needed.
Who have been the John the Baptists in your life – people who showed you the way, led you to Christ and encouraged you to follow him? If you asked John the Baptist, “What then should we do?” how would he answer in the context of your life now, with all its joys and sinfulness? Accepting our responsibility to God is liberating. It sets us free when we turn to God for forgiveness and experience the blessings of obeying his word. The diverse responses to each question show that we should always be open to what God expects us to do. Let our celebration of Christmas open our hearts to respond to the coming of the Messiah.
By Fr. Benigno Beltran SVD