Today is the 3rd Sunday of Advent. We lit the rose or pink colored candle to highlight the significance of this Sunday. We call it Gaudete Sunday, a time to rejoice for Jesus is coming! Today is also the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, another joyful reminder of the integral role of Mary in the fulfillment of God’s plan. A loving Mother always watching over us. Without Mary and the Holy Spirit, Jesus would not have been born.
We are half way through the season of Advent. Even though Advent is a time of penance, we remind ourselves this Sunday that this period of preparation for the coming of our Lord is a joyous occasion with the message being a time of hope. Christ’s forgiving and loving mercy should energize us.
You know how occasionally you get up in the morning and say to yourself that you feel energized today. You feel like you can take on the world. Maybe that doesn’t happen that often, or not often enough, or maybe it hasn’t happened in a very long time.
You might ask yourself what is different on those days. What energizes you? Feeling energized or not, what gives you the power to face each and every day? How do we find the joy of God in our everyday lives even on the days we find difficult?
We all need goals in life to strive for, but what sets our goals? How do we reach our goals? Do the ends justify the means? What are our guiding principles? What defines our moral fiber? When you look in the mirror, what do you see? <Pause> Do you see the person that you want to be? <Pause>
Two men, Charlie and Roger, got together and opened a butcher shop. The business did quite well and they prospered. One day a preacher came to town, and Charlie gave his life to Christ. He tried to persuade Roger to also accept Christ, but to no avail. “Why won’t you accept Christ into your life, Roger?” asked the newly baptized Charlie. “Listen, Charlie,” Roger said. “If I get religion too, who’s going to rig the meat scale?”
Roger understands that believing in Christ implies a radical change in personal and professional behavior. John the Baptist makes this very point in the Gospel today. He gives us direction through his response to those who came to be baptized.
The crowds, the tax collectors, and soldiers after hearing John preach about repentance in last week’s Gospel would have answered the question: “Are you the person you want to be?” with a profound NO. In today’s Gospel we hear them ask John: “What should we do?”
John gave specific “to do” lists to each of them. He said to the crowds to give to others beyond your basic needs, which refers to being charitable. To the tax collectors he said to not take more than you are supposed to, which refers to not cheating others. To the soldiers he said to not extort anyone, meaning not to bully them and to be satisfied with their wages, meaning to be satisfied with what they have. John is urging them to live by the basic rules of justice.
Pope Leo XIII helped clarify what it means to be just. He said that our material positions are not our own but common to all. When you live in a proper way, the rest belongs to the poor. In his encyclical on Capital and Labor dated May 15, 1891 he referenced St. Thomas Aquinas who stated: “Man should not consider his material possessions as his own, but as common to all, so as to share them without hesitation when others are in need.”
Everything we have comes from God and belongs to God. We come into the world naked and we leave the world naked. How do we honor God with the gifts He has given us? Only our good deeds follow us to heaven. Are we worthy?
John stated that he was not worthy to loosen the thongs of Christ’s sandals. Taking off someone’s shoes was the job of a slave. He was saying that he was not even worthy to be the Messiah’s slave.
John is telling us that something more than a prophet is coming, someone far greater then himself. Something more than moral reform. The Christ will baptize you, with the Holy Spirit and you will be cleansed of your sins as with a purifying fire.
When we are energized, we are fired up. We are fueled with something powerful. With the coming of Christ we will be fueled with God dwelling within us. Through our baptism we are made temples of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the breath of life. We are given the gift to love with the very love of God.
We know we are sinful. We know we are not the best person God wants us to be. But this is why God sent His only son to save us from ourselves. He sent His son to dwell among us and the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. If that is not something to rejoice over I don’t know what is.
We couldn’t ask for a God that loves us more, giving us all we need including Himself and sending us His only begotten Son as the sacrificial lamb for our sins. So Rejoice and hear John’s and Jesus’ cry to live a morally just life. Then act on it. When this becomes part of your everyday life, look again in the mirror? <Pause> Do you like what you see now?