December 16, 2018
Sunday, December 16
Third Sunday of Advent
Luke 3: 10 – 18
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.
St John the Baptist is the Forerunner of Christ, the prophet tasked with preparing the way for the Lord and His public ministry. We can see that clearly in the Baptist’s responses today to the repeated question “What should we do?” from three disparate groups. The prophet’s directives are simple and common-sense advice to “be a good person.” If you have extra food or clothing above your needs, you should share it. If you are a tax collector, collect only what is truly owed. If you are a soldier, don’t mistreat civilians for personal gain.
Compare these “conservative” admonitions of the Baptist in the 3rd chapter of Luke to the “radical” admonitions that Jesus gives in the 6th chapter, the Beatitudes. We see the difference between the Forerunner and the Messiah, the preliminary teachings from a prophet and the radical teachings of the Son of God.
I could probably follow St John’s rules if I tried hard; but I don’t have it in me to follow the Lord’s admonitions. I know I can’t live the Beatitudes, exude that level of righteousness, by my own efforts. Talk about setting someone up for failure! Who can be a good person using the measure laid out by Jesus?
But thanks be to God, for He recognizes that to live the Gospel precepts on our own power is impossible. Thanks be to God, who gives us His grace, the supernatural help we need to live out the Beatitudes. Thanks be to God, for the baby Messiah in the crib at that first Christmas proves that God is for us, not against us!
Father Matthew Morris