It’s the third week of Advent! The cleaning continues, even though by now the big jobs are done and finally, along with the clean smell of windows and floors scrubbed until they shine, we can begin to smell something delicious in their air. And we begin to feel a desire to share and to communicate…without our even knowing it, a smile appears on our faces: our guest is near!
Gospel of the Third Week of Advent
The crowds asked John the Baptist,
“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 Christ.
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.
His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor
and to gather the wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Exhorting them in many other ways,
he preached good news to the people.
1. Work in Progress
“Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’”
We have arrived at an important point in this Advent journey where we have to look at our desire to “go out” of ourselves, of our habits, and to think about removing, restoring, or doing something new within us or around us that will allow us to be surprised by the Lord who comes.
This Sunday John the Baptist gives us a hand again, just as he did for the Jews who went into the desert of Judea and along the bank of the Jordan, urged partly by curiosity, partly by need, but definitely attracted by the cry of this man who said he was only “the voice.” Just as in them, so also in us the question surfaces: “Teacher, what should we do?” What must I do to change something in the world, or in the world around me, or even in myself? John the Baptist, the rugged man, the man without fear of being marginalized, says to us: You are waiting for Someone important, and maybe He will not be exactly as you imagined him. But because of this, the waiting must be translated into gestures and actions of sharing, honesty, justice…to prepare and train our heart.
How can we go about this? It is important that we share something of our own with those of our family or our group. Continuing with the metaphor of cleaning…the invitation is to make space and to waste time, for example, by looking into the eyes of the people in our home and speaking with them. It means detaching ourselves, at least for a few minutes, from our phone, and beginning to feel again the warmth and physical contact of being with friends, with our trouble-making little sister or brother, with our parents. The experience of doing this, of leaving something or changing something, is like the experience of leaving behind the mechanism of living only online that make us lose the freedom of real-life contact with ourselves and with others.
What will you take away this week?
2. Preparing the Feast
“The crowds asked John the Baptist, ‘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.’”
Preparing for a party presupposes many things, and the thing that comes first is the very reason for the feast. Who knows how many parties we have gone to and been invited to! And many of these experiences end only with a headache, with having eaten or drunk too much, etc. This type of party, unfortunately, does not help us to share anything important, anything that involves us.
John the Baptist reminds us that if we want to welcome the Son of God, it is important to share something that is ours, that is a part of us. With this in mind, think about food. Food is one of the most important parts of the party. Food signifies tasting, sampling, communicating, giving life to those who live beside us, for example, to our neighbor who lives on the same floor as we do but with whom we never speak and whose name perhaps we do not know. It means giving life to the friend we know is suffering and who has no one interested in their story. Sharing food makes us suddenly realize that others exist, that someone has dedicated time to preparing this food and to making others happy. Because the alternative to sharing an egotistical closing in on our own interests…which rarely pays off. We need to listen to the Word of the Gospel, because it is the only word that saves us and draws us forth from our tangled mess.
What will you prepare this week?
3. Whispered Words
O Jesus, you know that often I do not find the word to speak to you.
Today, however, looking for a moment at the starry sky,
I have the sensation that a little of your heaven has entered my room,
and it seems almost royal.
I beg you to remain,
even when I don’t feel anything anymore.
I beg you not to leave me,
even though sometimes I will forget
that you came down from heaven
o that your heaven could enter my “room,”
into my confused existence!
What will you say this week?
(Translated and adapted from the Vocation Team of the Daughters of St. Paul in Italy: http://www.paoline.it/blog/giovani).