Third Sunday of Advent (Day 3 of Hanukkah)
In our Catholic liturgical calendar this is “Gaudete Sunday — the Sunday of Joy. (You’ll see why at the bottom of this entry. We’re half way through Advent and the vestment color is Rose, rather than purple, the color of penitence. So, we see the celebrant in rose vestments, which is a little too close to pink (ahem!) I had a “Rose” cell phone once; everybody asked me why I had a pink cell phone (Don’t ask. I bought it when I was manic.) I insisted it was rose – not pink!
Enough foolishness. Let’s think again about John the Baptist and his message for us.
The crowds went streaming into the desert of Judea.
Hot and sweaty, hungry and thirsty they crowded along the shore of the River Jordan.
What drew them there?
Very strange! He was telling them they had to repent. To change their lives.
That wrath was coming. They listened.
It was a new era. A special time in human history.
People knew that they needed to change.
They were ready.
But wrath may be coming to us in America if we don’t wake up.
But we’re not listening.
They asked John, What should we do?
- He said to them in reply, “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.”
- Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?”
- He answered them, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”
- Soldiers also asked him, “And what is it that we should do?” He told them, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.”
- Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah.
- John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire. (Luke 3: 1 – 18)
- Note how simple and practical John’s suggestions are!
They stood in line to be baptized with water.
To be cleansed of their sins.
But he railed at the hypocrites. The ones who were pretending to be religious but whose hearts were filled with jealousy and hatred. The ones who justified themselves and condemned everyone else.
We have to be sincere. Authentic. Real. Honest with ourselves and others. We need to look at the “Real Me” — not the face we put on for the world.
Advent is a time to look inward to ask God and ourselves “What should I do?”
What should I do to make my life better? What do I need to root out of my life that is disordered — that hurts me or my family or others?
What do we need to do in America to root out what is disordered — that hurts people, that marginalizes some at the expense of others?
I share with you now an example of what I am praying for today:
Just this morning, I disturbed my own peace by getting frustrated and upset about something I could not control. I had tried to get books to a one of the guys I am sponsoring in prison that would enable him for the first time in his life to enter into this holy season. I had brought him back to the faith and hoped to help him to enter into it more deeply. It’s now the third week of Advent and they haven’t let him have them yet. I have to deal with prison rules all the time to help the three guys in prison I am sponsoring to change and grow, to love the Lord.
It’s just so awful, Lord.
Our American prison system is so inhumane.
People who want to change have to struggle to do so.
And those who care for them have to struggle to to contact them,
expensive phone calls, no hard cover books, background checks for visits, yada, yada, yada.
As a priest I cannot even bring in a pen.
Many come out more angry than they went in.
And I have to try to wade my way through the mine field of “the System,”
Teach me not to get frustrated and angry, Lord.
It’s one of those things I cannot change and need “the wisdom to know I can’t.”
I’d like to not let life disturb me no matter what.
But I’m not there yet, Lord.
I ask for that grace today, Lord.
Allow me to be at peace in all circumstances.
I know it will take some time.
“Progress, not perfection.”
Brothers and sisters:
Rejoice in the Lord always.
I shall say it again: rejoice!
Your kindness should be known to all.
The Lord is near.
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
— the second reading of today’s Mass (Phil.4:4-7.)
Yes, Lord that’s exactly what I need to hear.
Please grant me — us — the grace to live that way.
To You be honor and glory. Amen!
COME, LORD JESUS!
(even if we are wearing pink — er — “rose” vestments.
Here’s Randy Travis and “Shall we gather at the River.”
priest / writer