Dec. 16, 2012
The Third Sunday of Advent
Zephaniah 3:14-18a
Philippians 4:4-7
Luke 3:10-18

When I was a child, my feelings about Advent were at least ambivalent if not confused. On the one hand, I was counseled to “prepare” spiritually (which in those days meant no candy or movies) and, on the other, Christmas ornaments were taken down from the attic and the smell of Christmas cookies permeated the house. My parents seemed to be shopping every evening and the television enticed us with all the year’s new toys.  Meanwhile, it seemed to me that the answer to any request for a treat was, “It’s Advent.” In retrospect, St. John the Baptist’s call to repentance seemed to echo all around and we seemed to know only one way to repent.

As an adult, I have a greater appreciation for Advent. Jesus comes and, with him, he brings all the reasons that have existed since the Creator to proclaim the goodness of creation. “Shout for joy,” proclaims the Old Testament…Christ is coming! “Rejoice,” says Paul, “the Lord himself is near” and John the Baptist preaches the good news to the people. But it is Advent and what should I do about that?

Today’s liturgy, the rose vestments, and candle and even the psalm refrain put new light on the Baptist’s call to repent. This is the message that is, indeed, good news. The key, it seems to me, is in the John’s answer to the question of the crowds, “What should we do?”

The Baptist’s had a specific message for all who asked. He told the tax collectors not to collect more than the law demanded and the soldiers not to practice extortion or falsely accuse. His message would be particular to us, too, and each of us knows what it is we must stop. But John had another more general counsel that all of us must do to prepare: Share whatever you have with those who have none.

Intuitively, the human community responds to the plight of the poor during this season of what is, for many, a time of excess. We know that we have more than we need while many do not have enough for simple existence, much less celebration.

Today’s Gospel asks us to make this response with a new sense of intentionality. We are reminded that Catholic Social Teaching and the Church’s preferential option for the poor are integral to the message of Christ and his ongoing presence in our life both now and throughout the year.

Advent is a time to remember to share the material goods that we have. It is also a time to share the joy we have in the incarnation.