Below is the homily that I gave this past weekend at our parish of St. Stephen. I pray that you will find a piece of it that touches your heart.
3rd Sunday of Advent – Cycle C – December 16, 2018
Zep 3:14-18, Responsorial Is 12:2-6, Phil 4:4-7, Lk 3:10-18
I am sure that most of us have seen or heard of the TV show, “What Would You Do?” If not, it is a show where situations are played out by actors to see how people around them will respond. Most of these situations deal with everyday encounters and it is always interesting to see how people step up to assist those in need.
Today’s Gospel has a little different spin on that phrase. Rather than, “What Would You Do?” the question that comes from the crowd, then the tax collectors and finally the soldiers is, “What Should We Do?”. Today, we celebrate the 3rd Sunday of Advent. As we continue to prepare ourselves and we watch and wait for the coming of Christ, that same question that the crowd pressed John to answer might be in our hearts today. So, “What Should We Do?” John the Baptist has the answer for us.
Now, you would expect a dramatic answer from John the Baptist because he is someone who tends to have a flair for the dramatic. After all, he is a person who wears camel’s hair, eats locusts, and preaches a tough message. So, his response might be a little surprising to many of us.
John the Baptist said to them, “Share your cloaks and your food to the person who has none. Stop collecting excessive taxes. Do not practice extortion. Do not falsely accuse anyone. Be satisfied with your wages.” If it all seems ordinary, you’re probably right, but let us never forget that God takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary.
There’s a striking verse in the first reading today from the prophet Zephaniah. It says; “The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, he will sing joyfully because of you as one sings at festivals.” So why does God say that about us, about you and me?
When God the Father looks at us, he sees the image of his son, Jesus Christ. We are baptized Christians; we are transformed in Christ; we are children of God. In the 2nd Letter to the Corinthians St Paul puts it like this: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.” If this is true, then all our actions take on a new meaning. God looks on us with endless joy; and that means that our actions, however ordinary they may seem if done out of love are part of that joy. God takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary.
And that´s why, in today´s Gospel, when the crowds ask John the Baptist “What should we do?” his answer is surprisingly ordinary. You might even say it´s ho-hum, “been there, done that” if you will. But what he is telling us is to do the commonplace things, the things that are expected of us, and do them well. Because we are children of God, everything we do matters.
- Do your work well. Whether you are a student, a housewife or a househusband, a business professional, a laborer, do it well.
- If you are a spouse. Love. Say “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you.”
- In our everyday interactions with others, be kind instead of cutting, especially with those who may be strangers or enemies in our lives.
- When you do work around the house, do it out of love. Love for those who live with you or for yourself if you live alone.
Our lives are filled with many opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others but how often do we take advantage of those opportunities versus putting our own needs first?
God fills our hearts with special grace, but he needs us to be channels through which that grace can flow where it is most needed; into the hearts and minds of everyone that we encounter each and every day. Think about the last time you were genuinely grateful to someone. Did you deserve what he or she did for you? Or was your gratitude motivated by your need and their grace? We express genuine thanksgiving when we receive grace and mercy. So, our Father wants us to recognize our need for His grace and to respond with an attitude of gratitude that enables Him to empower and use us. There is no better time than in the next week, as we approach the birth of our Savior, to refocus our efforts at accomplishing that mission, to show others, and ourselves, the extraordinary life that God has given to us. Ultimately, that choice is yours and that choice is mine.
In the end, it all comes back to that simple question, “What should we do?” It needs to be more than just what we must believe, it needs to be how we put our faith into action. God uses Luke to speak to our times when goodness and godliness are associated only with what we feel or what we think. Yes, God wants our hearts, minds, and souls to be thoroughly convicted and passionate. Yes, without faith and love, all action is hollow and vain. But Scripture makes it clear that faith is not genuine if all it does is change what we think between our ears. Real faith leads us to action. Faith is always displayed in action based upon trust—it is never just mere wishful thinking or good intentions. When Jesus enters our world, he changes it. When Jesus enters our lives, he changes them. When Jesus enters our hearts, we are transformed.
We all have a role in building God’s kingdom, no matter how ordinary we think our actions are. Saint Mother Teresa reminds us, “Do small things with great love.” So, the question for each one of us, as we prepare ourselves to receive the Eucharist today, and we prepare our hearts for Jesus’ birth, is simply: “What, Lord, should I do?”