John the Baptist’s Advice for You and Me
User's Guide to Sunday
BY Tom and April Hoopes
December 16-29, 2012 Issue | Posted 12/16/12 at 8:26 AM
Sunday, Dec. 16, is the Third Sunday in Advent (Year C, Cycle I).
Zephaniah 3:14-18; Isaiah 12:2-6; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:10-18
Today is Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday. It’s called that for several reasons.
But maybe there is one other reason to rejoice: John the Baptist tells the disciples what the Good News is, and it turns out to be love.
The crowd gathers around John the Baptist. They have been moved by his preaching and his radical lifestyle, and they are ready to take the next step. They ask him: “What shall we do?”
His answer is very “doable” and very deep, both at the same time.
“Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none, and whoever has food should do likewise,” he says.
In other words, he doesn’t tell people to sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice, out of mere mortification. He asks them to do so out of love — in order to share with others and to be in a state that allows them to keep sharing with others.
Next, he tailors the advice to specific professions:
To tax collectors, he says: “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”
To soldiers, he says: “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.”
For each, his advice is the same: love. But it is a practical and reasonable love: They don’t need to stop being tax collectors and soldiers and become social workers or preachers instead. They just need to do their own professions while caring for others.
This always gets us wondering: What would his advice be to us? It would be something simple and yet difficult, just like the other advice.
To moms, he might say: “Offer your children to the Lord and accept his will for them, whether it’s what you want or not.”
To dads, he might say: “Be present to your children. Know them enough to be able to guide them.”
To people in the modern workplace he might say: “Help others get ahead, instead of just looking out for yourself.”
To all of us this Advent, he might say: “Take a second out from being so busy to pray and rejoice!”
That might be the hardest advice of all. And yet, with all of the crazy activity that leads up to Christmas, it is essential. The second reading today makes that clear:
“Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.”
Note that “no anxiety at all” part. That doesn’t mean “some anxiety.” It means none. And that is not easy. It is something you have to ask God for.
But once you get it, says St. Paul, “Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
That’s very Good News.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.
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