Zephyr 3:14-18; Phil 4:4-7; Luke 3:10-18
An Old Russian story tells of a farmer named Diametric who, like Simeon in the gospel of St. Luke (2:26), wishes to see God face to face before he dies. He prays to St. Nikolai who promises to grant his wish. The saint goes on to specify the place and the day of the encounter.
As the time for encounter draws near, Diametric sets out on his long journey. He has only one thing in mind: his appointment with God. But along the road, he meets an old farmer whose cart has broken down. Now he has dilemma: must he stop to help the farmer or hurry on to his appointment with God? His kind heart wins and he stays to fix the farmer’s cart. It takes him hours to finish the task and he never makes it to the meeting place.
That night, St. Nikolai appears to him in a dream and says: “My friend, you have encountered the Lord. It happened when you helped that unknown man in need.”
Last Sunday’s gospel, John the Baptist was telling the people to repent in preparation for the coming of the Lord, the Messiah. The teaching of St. John touched their hearts. That is why in today’s gospel, they ask St. John what to do while waiting for the coming of the Lord. The answer of St. John is to challenge people generosity and sense of fairness so that others may have reason to rejoice. Give bread to the hungry and clothes to those who have none. When the tax collectors ask what to do, John tells them to keep to the going rate without over-taxing people in order to cream off the extra arithmetic for themselves. People are burdened enough. Be just. To the soldiers, St. John tells them not to use their position as a weapon for their own reward. Be content with your pay and stop stealing from the poor and the weak. In others the time of Advent is a time of action.
St. John is telling us today that membership in the church, knowing the doctrine of the Church and the Bible, being baptized and going to Mass on Sundays are not enough. We must do something like a tree that bears good fruit.
Fr. Paul Foulon, C.I.C.M. in his homily book had said that we could not be believers in our minds and in our words. Our beliefs must be visible in our social contacts and in our concern for others. The repentance that we made during this Advent has to be expressed in actions. It is because St John did not call people to a Bible study, a miracle crusade, a physical penance or a prayer meeting. Of course these things are also important. But He tells them to do well what is expected of him. If people are attracted to other sects or stay away from the church, may be because we do not do, as Catholics, what is expected of us: love our neighbor, obey God’s commandments, celebrate beautiful liturgies, share responsibility with the community members and make them feel they are the church.
What shall we do while waiting for the coming of the Lord? First, act on people’s needs. Fr. Foulon continued to say that St. John asks the people to care and share. Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. We should provide help to a person in need, either material, moral or spiritual. It is because no one can say that he has nothing to share. St. John does not ask us to give everything we have but only to share like to adopt an abandoned baby or to offer a meal or visit a sick neighbor or to share in funeral expenses, to practice active love and compassion and to have social awareness. John is not asking for heroic sacrifices, like the martyrs who offer their lives for the Lord, or any extra or special projects but a helping hand, a foot that can go out of its way, an eye to see others’ needs and an ear that hears a cry for help.
Second, do an honest job. When the tax collectors asks him what they are going to do also, St. John tells them: stop collecting more than what is prescribed. Unlike today, our B.I.R. people lower down the amount to be paid for taxes but what happened, they do not put the declared amount in the official receipt as it is but put the different and the remaining amount goes to their pocket. Anyway, not all B.I.R. people are doing this. Fr. Foulon also said that St. John did not tell them to quit their job because it is immoral or because they cannot survive in it as good people. They should continue in their job but they should do it honestly. Today, a B.I.R. man, a customs officer, a policeman or a fireman can be honest if all of them do their job honestly and society will be different. This also can be applied with other professions and jobs like: a teacher reach out to his students, a married gives his/her spouse the first place in one’s heart, a businessman satisfied with fair profit, an employee entertains his customers well or work for the hours we are paid, pay our taxes properly, pay the SSS or our employees, not use a jumper on the electrical line, have no illegal connection for the water and refuse to practice usury (5/6).In this sense we can have a different society.
Third, tell the truth. St. John tells the soldiers not to accuse anybody falsely. But even today, soldiers are doing not the right thing sometimes. They planted drugs and guns to frame up somebody. We can easily accuse falsely like a wife saying: “My husband is always with his friends, he has no time for me.” But who can feel happy at home if the wife nagged always at her husband, criticized and belittled his husband? St. John’s advice to do our job well and in that sense there would be no need for false accusations. There are so many things that we can learn from today’s gospel, I just mentioned some.
To end this, a philosopher once said that there are three types of people in this world: 1. the Dreamers who conceive bright ideas but remain in the world of dreams and ideas; 2. the Planners who translate their dreams into programs and resolutions but remain only on paper and 3. the Doers who undertake a task, put their heart and soul into it until it is completed.
May there be more doers of the faith among us.
See Today’s Readings: Cycle C