And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.”
Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”
As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals.
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 granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
St. Paul offers a very clear message today: “Rejoice in the Lord always! I say it again – Rejoice!” “But you don’t understand,” we respond. “My mother’s cancer is getting worse; we need a new car and don’t have the money; our son lost his job, and I can’t afford the Christmas presents my family really needs and wants. The Lord doesn’t seem very near at all.”
Ah, perhaps this is precisely the point. The people who heard Zephaniah speak and those Paul wrote to had similar needs, concerns, and worries as we experience. Their writings remind us that God is so very present amidst the contradictions and messiness of our daily living. The message for us this 3rd Sunday of Advent is that Jesus saves us precisely when we are most vulnerable. Jesus renews our hearts even when the day seems impossible to manage and the future seems totally overwhelming.
So what shall we do? This is the very question the crowds asked John the Baptist. And what does John suggest? He calls them and us to faithfulness amidst life’s daily challenges: those who have more than they need must share with those who have less. You tax collectors, be honest; soldiers, do not take advantage of the vulnerable. Parents, cherish your kids; spouses, be faithful; neighbors, live in peace.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team
Prayer for Generosity
teach me to be generous;
teach me to serve you
as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to seek reward,
except that of knowing that
I do your will.
—St. Ignatius of Loyola