Third Sunday of Advent, 2018
Doing the ordinary things!
Readings: 1st- Zeph. 3:14-18; 2nd- Phil. 4:4-7; Gospel- Lk. 3:10-18
The readings of today commend us to the joy of the coming Messiah. Being sons and daughters of God offers great joy. The prophet Zephaniah speaks in the first reading of the end of Israel’s exile and the return from Babylon. The prophet announces joy to Jerusalem after a painful experience, “The Lord your God has removed the judgment against you, he has turned away your enemies; the king of Israel, the Lord is in your midst, you have no misfortune to fear.” The prophet Zephaniah presents two images of the Lord’s compassion for the people: First, God is turning the negative judgment against Israel and has dispersed their enemies. Second, God declares his constant presence to his people and promises never to abandon them anymore.
The theme of joy becomes more pronounced in the letter of Saint Paul in the second reading reminding the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say to you again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near.” The reasons for Paul’s invitation to rejoice is clear, “The Lord is near.” God’s nearness calls for great rejoicing because it evokes a feeling of comfort and safety. It also calls for greater acts of love, compassion and service. Our joy should come ultimately from the Lord. We rejoice for good not for bad or evil. Paul puts it this way, “Your kindness should be known to all” (Phil. 4:5).
This week, two things left a remarkable image/impression in my head: One is a message which my friend sent to me while she was driving back after an event in Baltimore. She wrote, “There is a lot of homeless people in Baltimore. I need to do something, like the sock thing- that is, sharing a bunch of socks for them).” That touched me. The second was my Facebook post on Monday morning and the reactions to that post. I wrote, “if you love your wife, show it. You love your husband, let him feel it. You don’t hurt someone in the name of love. Marriage isn’t a rehearsal bed where one experiences hurt, then waits to experience love afterwards. You either start loving and love all the way or you lose your opportunity to love.” This post received a lot of buzzes with about fifteen shares. It told me that people need to be encouraged to do good.
The challenge that John the Baptist sets for those who come to him in the gospel of today narrows down the call to do ordinary things. The crowds come to ask John, “What should we do?” His reply is, “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.” Tax collectors came to ask him, “Teacher, what should we do?” His answer, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.” Soldiers also ask him, “And what is it that we should do?” His response, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages” (Lk. 3:10-14). Aren’t those answers simple? Maybe those different groups are expecting some extraordinary answers from John. But what do they hear and what does such response say to us? All are invited to do simple things that promote the joy of others and increase the welfare of those in need.
Today, I’m only adding my voice to that of John the Baptist to remind us of the need to do just ordinary things as we await the Lord at Christmas. Just as my friend recognized the presence of the needy and the homeless in Baltimore, we must recognize the presence of the needy around us. We must be the source of their joy.
Let’s go home reflecting on the questions we need to ask within this time, “What shall I do?” Husband, wife, daughter, mother, father, mother-in-law, son-in-law, brother, sister, friend, etc., should ask, “what shall I/we do? Employer, employee, government official, security personnel, medical practitioner, clergy, office clerk, should ask, “what shall I/we do?” Salesman/woman at Walmart, Costco, Amazon, BestBuy, Sears, etc., should ask, “what shall I/we do?” Public servant at MVA, IRS, Post Office, Verizon, etc., should ask, “what shall I/we do?” School teacher, counselor, social worker, etc., should ask, “what shall I/we do?” The answer is to promote the joy of your customers. Do not manipulate anyone. Do not market bad products. Do not tell those you serve lies. Do not take advantage of your subjects. Do not look for unusual profits at the expense of your consumers. If you are in any relationship, do not cause pain to your partner. Do not cause heartbreak. Do not hold malice and grievances against family members and friends. Those answers appear simple, yes. But that’s real conversion. That’s what the Lord wants of us. Let your kindness be seen by all. We all need to rejoice at the coming of Christ.