3rd Sunday of Advent
On this the third Sunday of Advent, we are again given a Gospel passage where John the Baptist is in the forefront. Here, we are told that he preaches about authentic charity and the importance of being honest in all that we do. For the follower of Christ, charity is far more than simply giving material help to those in need. While we must give alms to the less fortunate, it is essential that we also treat those we are helping with respect and dignity. Without this outlook, our charitable acts can simply become a way of easing our conscience, rather that an opportunity to show true love to our neighbour. Love, of its very nature, must be selfless and in the Cross of Christ, we see the perfect example of this authentic love. Christ loves us so much that he gave up his life for us, so that we might be saved. We must seek always to imitate the love of Christ in our relationships with others. While we are called to provide material wealth to those in need, even more important, is the spiritual care we show to them, never being afraid to invite them into an encounter with the living Christ. True love liberates us from our selfish tendencies and brings us into contact with God, who is the author of love. Pope Benedict XVI, in his first Encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, puts is wonderfully when he says: “Love is indeed “ecstasy”, not in the sense of a moment of intoxication, but rather as a journey, an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self, towards its liberation through self-giving, and thus towards authentic self-discovery and indeed the discovery of God.”
Apart from teaching his followers about charity, John the Baptist is also very clear in making it known that he is not the Messiah, but only the one who prepares the way for the Lord. We can all relate to the mission of John the Baptist in our own lives. While we have a variety of different vocations, as followers of Christ, we all share in the mission to spread His gospel. We all have a part to play in bringing Christ to others. The lay faithful have the unique advantage of being in the world, and therefore becoming the living witnesses of Christ in the workplace; in the school; in the shopping centre; in the home, or where-ever they find themselves on a daily basis. In today’s Gospel, we are told that John the Baptist speaks about the coming of Christ, who, “will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” As Baptised Christians, we have all received the Holy Spirit and must pray that that Spirit be rekindled in us and set us on fire in spreading the message of Christ. It is no longer enough to simply sit back and wait for others to go out on mission. We must never be afraid to launch out into the deep and help others to have an encounter with the living Christ. As followers of Christ, we have a deep joy within us and need to allow that joy to overflow into every aspect of our lives. We live in hope, for we know that Christ will never forsake us, once we allow Him to take control of our lives.
In this the Advent Season of the Year of Faith, let us recommit ourselves to living out the Gospel and stepping out in faith. In light of this we turn to our Blessed Mother, as we ask her to pray for us, to her Son, Jesus Christ. Mary is the perfect example of true Christian discipleship, a discipleship of complete faith in God, and abandonment to His will.
“What should we do then?” the crowd asked. John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?” “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them. Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.” The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.