More than halfway in the Advent season, today the liturgy repeatedly invites us to rejoice. Although we have many reasons to be sad because of so much suffering, violence, and hatred throughout the world, both the prophet Zephaniah and the apostle Paul tell us that the reasons to rejoice are even greater.
In all these trials we are not on our own: THE LORD IS NEAR! He is near not as an impotent friend but as a mighty Savior. He is near us not as an indifferent onlooker, but as a loving brother who comes to share our burden of sorrows in order to make us share in His inheritance of eternal happiness.
In response to this heart-warming message, we are expected to do our part. In practical terms, following the invitation of John the Baptist, this means we have to be generous to our needy neighbor, to be fair in our dealings with others, and to be instruments of God’s loving care for all. Let this be the commitment we will renew in the Eucharistic celebration we are about to begin.
The crowds asked John the Baptist, “What 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 Christ. 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.