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.”
A friend of mine refers to Advent as a season of “joyful expectation.” Older Catholics remember this Third Sunday as “Gaudete Sunday” from the Latin word for joy. In times past, rose-colored vestments were worn in church today.
Our first and second readings carry the theme of joy, but then the Gospel is all business. John the Baptist is dispensing advice to various groups who come to see him. The Gospel names two of them: tax collectors and soldiers. John advises them to carry out their daily duties with justice.
I suppose that if those two professions in Jesus’ time made a radical change in their way of doing business, it would be a cause for joy! Tax collectors were universally despised and soldiers represented the might of the Roman occupation.
Luke wants to show us that change was in the air. The coming of Jesus would transform all of human life. That was good news indeed.
What would bring us joy today? An end to terrorists’ threats? Conversion in the corporate world from greed and personal gain? A new spirit of generosity and service in people’s everyday lives?
Paul urges the Philippians to be joyful because “God is near.” That very presence of God ought to be our focus, because that would help us with the other things that need changing.
In the first reading, what does Zephaniah tell the people of Zion (Israel) to do?
What has changed because of God’s mercy?
Who is in the midst of Israel? What will the mighty savior do for Zion?
What does Paul tell the Philippians to do in this week's second reading? Why does he tell them that?
Paul encourages them to “have no anxiety” and make their requests known to God. Why does Paul speak that way? What will result if they follow his advice?
In the Gospel, what do the people ask of John the Baptist in response to his message? What does his say they should do?
Why were the people thinking that John might be the Christ and what did John tell the people about who he was?
by Susan Hines-Brigger
Many of us are blessed with having all of the things we need and sometimes an abundance of those things, such as clothes and food. Think about others who may not be so blessed. Go through your closet and donate any clothes that no longer fit or buy some basic clothing to donate to a local shelter.
Again, most of us don't have to worry about where our next meal is coming from. For others, though, that is an everyday reality. Go grocery shopping for food that you can donate to a local food pantry. Or, better yet, volunteer at a local ministry that helps serve food to those in need.
In the Gospel, John the Baptist talks about baptizing people with water, just as we do today. Ask a family member to show you some pictures of your baptism.