Saturday, December 12, 2009

Gospel for the 3rd Sunday of Advent

From: Luke 3:10-18

The Preaching of John the Baptist [Continued]

[10] And the multitudes asked him, "What then shall we do?" [11] And he answered them, "He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise." [12] Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, "Teacher, what shall we do?" [13] And he said to them, "Collect no more than is appointed you." [14] Soldiers also asked him, "And we, what shall we do?" And he said to them, "Rob no one by violence or by false accusation, and be content with your wages."

[15] As the people were in expectation, and all men ques­tioned in their hearts concerning John, whether perhaps he were the Christ, [16] John answered them all, "I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. [17] His win­nowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into his granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."

[18] So, with many other exhortations, he preached good news to the people.

12-13. With honesty and courage St John the Baptist lays bare each person's fault. The chief sin of tax collectors lay in their using their privileged position as collaborators of the Roman authorities to acquire personal wealth at the expense of the Jewish people: Rome specified how much Israel as a whole should yield by way of taxes; the tax collectors abused their position by extorting more than was necessary. Take the case of Zacchaeus, for example, who, after his conversion, admits that he acquired wealth unjustly and, under the influence of grace, promises our Lord to make generous restitution (cf. Lk 19:1-10).

The Baptist's preaching contains a norm of natural justice which the Church also preaches. Public position should be regarded, above all, as an opportunity to serve society, not to obtain personal gain at the expense of the common good and of that justice which people holding such positions are supposed to administer. Certainly, anyone who has fallen into the temptation of unjustly appropriating what belongs to another must not only confess his sin in the sacrament of Penance if he is to obtain pardon; he must also resolve to give back what is not his.

14. The Baptist requires of everyone - Pharisees, tax collectors, soldiers - a deep spiritual renewal in the very exercise of their job; they have to act justly and honourably. God asks all of us to sanctify ourselves in our work and in the circumstances in which we find ourselves: "Any honest and worthwhile work can be converted into a divine occupation. In God's service there are no second-class jobs; all of them are important" ([St.] J. Escriva, Conversations, 55).

15-17. Using expressive imagery, John announces Christian Baptism, pro­claiming that he is not the Messiah; he, who is on his way, will come with the authority of supreme Judge that belongs to God, and with the dignity of the Messiah, who has no human equal.
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

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