The crowds asked John an Advent question: "What should we do?" Like people in every age, they were beset with fear, anxiety, and discouragement.
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 God's presence all the time. If we can do this then everything can change - for the better. We will then see and feel His presence in all of the ordinary events and circumstances of every day. We will then experience His pain and sorrow in the suffering of our brothers and sisters.
There is a lot of pain and suffering in our world. Over 5 million people have died from the pandemic. Problems in our world and nation feel overwhelming. Advent is not always a season full of joy to those suffering grief, loss, or some obstacle that weighs upon their soul. Many times it is difficult to find God within.
So, what should we 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 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.
We must do deeds that reflect what we have received and what we believe.Our presence in the world must proclaim to all that the Lord indeed is in our midst. Our lives must mirror His life. We must become the same miracles of love, healing and reconciliation to all of our brothers and sisters. 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.
But most of all we must banish fear and be the source of strength and courage to those around us who are really destroyed by the evil of our day.
In answer to our Advent prayer: "What should we do?" the answer is abundantly clear: "Rejoice! The Lord is in your midst! God's own peace will stand guard over your hearts."