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Preparing the Way of the Lord
Third Sunday of Advent
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.
Opening Prayer: Jesus, I ask you to fill my heart with the desire to please you. Teach me to ask you every day, “What should I do?” May I be a reflection of your joy and love to every person I encounter today.
- A Day to Rejoice: The third Sunday of Advent is Gaudete (“Rejoice”) Sunday. Today we light a pink candle to show the joy in our hearts as the feast of the Nativity draws near. In this Gospel, we can sense the excitement and anticipation of the crowds, the soldiers, and the tax collectors beseeching John the Baptist for wisdom and direction. They were joyfully wondering if John was the Messiah and eagerly asking him how to live their lives to please God. As we start each day, they give us a good example to follow, asking God, “What should I do?”
- Even the Tax Collectors: Tax collectors were very unpopular with the Jews because they were seen as aiding and abetting the oppressors. They often used their position to overcharge their neighbors and make a profit for themselves. The Jewish people distrusted tax collectors and thought of them as sinful and wicked men. Yet the joyful anticipation and expectation that the Messiah might be near led even these arguably sinful men to ask John, “What should I do?” May we never hesitate, no matter how unworthy we feel, to seek God’s will for our lives. “Love God, serve God; everything is in that” (St. Clare of Assisi).
- Simple Deeds: St. Teresa of Calcutta famously said, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” When John was asked by the people, “What are we to do?” his reply was not grandiose. He told the seekers to practice simple deeds of charity, to act justly in their profession, and to be satisfied with what they had. What ageless advice for we who seek to live a life pleasing to God! John exemplified this simplicity as he worked to pave the way for the true Messiah, telling the crowds in all humility, “One mightier than I is coming.”
Conversing with Christ: Lord, I turn to you today, humbly asking that you open my mind and my heart to your guidance. Open my eyes to the needs of others whom I encounter. Make me honest in my dealings and charitable in my interactions with others. Thank you for the gift of this day of rejoicing. May my joy come from pleasing you.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will reflect on the advice John the Baptist gave each group who approached him, and ask the Lord to reveal to me the areas in which I most need to improve.
For Further Reflection: John the Baptist: A Man for Our Time.
Cathy Stamper lives in Maryland with her husband, Mike. They have been partners in marriage and business for thirty-one years. Together they have been blessed with five young adult children. She is a lay member of Regnum Christi.