17.12.2006 III Sunday of Advent
The joy of Gaudete SundayRejoice Sunday is only comprehensible if we do prepare our paths for God. first and second readings are announcing this joy because of the coming of our King and our Lord. The Gospel is showing us on what our joy should be founded. Rejoice Sundayis telling us not about an empty and meaningless or superficial joy which we can find in the world, but rather about the joy which is the effect of the internal conviction of the justice andhonesty of my life. I can and I will be truly joyful only if my conscience will not reproach me for anything.
What should we do? What should I do?
This Sundays Gospel once more presents John the Baptist. He has a particular place of honor in our tradition. He was the kinsman of the Lord. He was the forerunner, the one who said that the Messiah was coming. He is the one who pointed to Jesus and called him the Lamb of God. He was the one who lived as a radical prophet, wearing animal skins and eating locusts and demanding a radical change in the way people lived. Our generation likes to closeeyes to this aspect of Johns life, but it is this aspect, this demand for continual and radical change, that fascinated the people of the centuries.
In todays Gospel the people gather around John and ask, What is it that we should do? not "What should others do to prepare for the Kingdom?" They do not ask howthe government should change to prepare for the Kingdom nor how the church should change to prepare for the Kingdom, but, simply and perhaps what is more difficult, "What should I do?"
John told the people to be charitable. They should give the poor their surplus. The tax collectors were told to be honest, not using their positions to enrich themselves. The soldiers were told to stop harassing and intimidating people.
John the Baptist challenged the people to be loving. He also challenges us. He challenges us to adopt a whole new attitude in life, an attitude of sacrificial love. This is the love that others will witness in us as a sign that the Kingdom of God is near. St. Paul put it this way to the Philippians. Let your gentleness be known to everyone, for the Lord is near.
What is it we should do to prepare for the Lord? The first thing we should do is to look at how we treat other people and then make an effort to be kind, considerate, loving, just and honest.
Bruno Ferrero in his small book Sunshine tells a short story about a monk who once, while walking through the forest, observedthe bird of one species was feeding the sick young of a bird of another species. The monk was astonished at first because it was rather strange that onewouldanother in this way.
But finally he said:
OK. God is giving me a sign. If even animalscare of other animals, so God is showing me that whatever happens, He will certainly always send somebody to help me. It is notthat Iso muchmy daily needs. Whatthen should I do? I dont need to take such care of myself, butshouldand absolutely relyGods help.
Then he stopped doing anything. He just sat in the forest for many days waiting forhelp. Many days later he was so exhausted that he was unable to even lift up his hand. Very weak, he fell asleep and indream he saw an angel, who was looking at him very angrily so the monk stood up and started to reprimand the angel saying, God gave me a signthat bird, that I have to be totally trustful and rely on God like the young of the strange bird which was fed by the other bird. According to the sign I received from God, you were to help me so why didnt you help me? The angel answered. "Yes, the sign was there for you, but it was meant to show you how you have to help others not that you just wait for them to help you.
What should we do? What should I do? What is the deepest source of the true joy?