Doing the Simple Things

Dec 11, 2018

Gospel Reflection, Third Sunday of Advent
Zephaniah 3: 14-18a; Philippians 4: 4-7; Luke 3: 10-18

Doing the Simple Things

In today’s gospel we focus a bit on the person of John the Baptist.  He was a prophet and a prophet had a difficult job.  People often didn’t like what prophets had to say, but an authentic prophet proclaimed the truth about God and right living.  So John’s preaching was anything but mild and gentle.  What John the Baptist gave the people took one’s breath away.  “You brood of vipers”, he called them.  They should not presume anything on account of being children of Abraham.  He did not hesitate to criticize the great and powerful, including Herod who had taken the wife of his brother Phillip.  John publicly criticized this marriage and was ultimately beheaded for doing so.

Despite these brave words of criticism – or perhaps because of them – people came to John in droves and had themselves baptized in the Jordan by him as a sign of repentance and conversion.  In today’s gospel they ask, “What should we do?”  As strongly as he had preached repentance, his suggestions now were simple.  Just make a start!  Share what you have!  You ought not to give everything away, but something.  If you have more clothes than you really need, then give some to the person who has few clothes; and the same with food – share any surplus if you have some; give someone else something to eat, too.  Start by sharing.  That is how God’s children learn to fight against selfishness. 

Tax collectors also came for the baptism of repentance.  “What should we do?” they asked.  “Collect no more than is appointed you.”  In other words, do your work as it should be done.  Do it honestly and decently.  The soldiers came too and asked, “What should we do?”  Do not mistreat people, extort money from them, or plunder or torture them.  Be the ones who protect them instead. 

This is how simple his steps of repentance were.  They were the suggestions of the great preacher of repentance.  What God expects of us is often pretty obvious.  Anything else leads to disaster.  John was the precursor trying to prepare people for Christ, the Messiah.  Advent is the right time for that.  Doing the simple things is not always simple, but it is certainly the best way to prepare for Christmas.

Father Tony