3rd Sunday of Advent - What Are We to Do?

The crowds asked John an Advent question: "What are we to do?" Like people in every age, they were beset with fear, anxiety, and discouragement.

We have as many reasons as they to be afraid, to be filled with concern about health, economics and social evils. We are constantly faced with a barrage of images that show us - quite emphatically - how broken our world has become. Every day we are confonted with aggression, war, competition, greed, and the lust for property and power. There seems to be far too much for us to handle anymore:  reminders of how vulnerable we really are; the growing number of the poor, homeless and displaced, not only worldwide, but here at home as well; the effect of climate change and seeming unwillingness of leadership to do anything about it... how inept we really have become at being "brother's keeper."
Precisely because things look so bad, we are more apt to turn to the Lord for answers and remedies. It is our very helplessness that leads us to rely more fully on the Lord. And so we too cry out: "What are we to do?"

Today's Scripture Readings give us a clear, precise and practical answer: "Shout for joy . . . exult with all your heart! Have no fear... be not discouraged!"  (Zephaniah 3)

Paul tells us: "Rejoice in the Lord always! Dismiss all anxiety from your minds. Then God's own peace will stand guard over your hearts and minds." (Phil.: 4)

John the Baptist answers very specifically in a different vein: "Give to him who has nothing; exact nothing unjustly; do not bully anyone; be content with your pay." (Luke: 3)

The Lord is in our midst.  This is not "fake news" but rather it is "Good News!"  It is the one reality that can answer all our needs and dispel all our fears. But first we have to believe! We have to make ourselves aware of that presence all the time. When and if we accept the fact that "the Lord is in our midst", then everything can change - for the better. We can see and feel His presence in all of the ordinary events and circumstances of every day.  We can experience His pain and sorrow in the suffering of our brothers sisters.

Our presence in the world must be the same kind of sign. Our lives must proclaim the same miracles of love, of healing, of reconciliation. Our goodness and compassion must touch those who are blind and deaf to the Lord. Our mercy and acts of service must free those who are crippled by pride and hate. Most of all, I think the temper of our times calls for us to banish fear and be sources of strength and courage to those around us who are really destroyed by the evil of our day.

We need to be voices in the desert: to cry out, to reach out. Our Christmas greetings of peace and justice, of love and joy cannot be mere empty words written on a card or sung in a carol. We must make these words real, tangible, visible in our actions, in our concern, in our sharing and giving, in our living out the vocation of our baptism, which, Jesus assures us, makes the least of us Greater even than John the Baptist.

So, what are we to do?

It is the face of Jesus we see when we look at the poor, the sick and the homeless. It is face of Jesus we see when confronted with troubles, suffering and failure. We see His beauty and power in all of the good things; we sense His crucified presence when touched by pain and sorrow; we are energized by the power of His resurrected presence when we are buried by weakness, defeat, or death in any form.

Although the seasons change, our faith, like the sun, remains constant. We remember and relive the great events of salvation history. We rejoice mightily precisely because The LORD HAS COME; He has revealed the Father's love to us fully and finally; and He makes available to us, moment by moment, the saving, healing power of His presence.

In answer to our advent prayer: "What ought we to do?" the Church cries out: "Rejoice! The Lord is in your midst! God's own peace will stand guard over your hearts."