3rd Sunday of Advent C

When a prophet is around, you should ask them questions. They have a way of looking into the future.  Not in a “are the Giants going to cover the spread?” kind of future, but they have such an intimate knowledge of God, they can see where things are going.  They have the ability to note God’s presence, and perhaps more importantly, where God is lacking.  So if you are blessed enough to be around a prophet, ask the most important question, “What should we do?”

It is asked by those who stream to the Judean desert to ask John for baptism.  He tells them, “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none.  And whoever has food should do likewise.”  To tax collectors, Jews collecting for the Roman Empire and notorious for their greed, he demands, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”  They must be fair – not exploitive.  And to the soldiers, another group mysteriously drawn to John, he warns them they must not abuse their power through extortion and false accusations.

Those answers still hold up as we try to build the kingdom of God now.  John’s advice still adheres as we prepare the way of the Lord.  We should be more charitable not only for the obvious difference it makes in the lives of others, but to increase our awareness of our brothers and sisters and our connectedness to each other.  We should be aware of the pitfall of greed that separates us and instead let the Spirit allow us to grow in mindfulness of the moment and not be consumed with the next conquest.  And we should carefully guard how we use our power as he urged the soldiers.  For we all hold power either in our schools, at our work or among our families.  We should exercise that power as Jesus did with compassion and mercy.  You would be amazed what happens when the more powerful figure asks for forgiveness to the less powerful one.  For example, power becomes authentic when a parent asks forgiveness from their child.

Of course, our church must cry out, “What should we do?” in the midst of scandal and loss.  We must focus on our constant mission to the poor, to care for those who have been hurt the most so that we might regain our moral center.  As John insisted for the tax collectors, the Church must do what is fair by giving the survivors of abuse the opportunity to be heard in our communities so they might be empowered and we might begin to heal together.  And the Church’s power must only be power for and never power over and the only model of leadership worthy of Christ is that of service.

These specific instances of “What we should do?” will never fail.  But I also think John the Baptist is pointing to a wider vision toward how we see the world.  What should we do?   We must dare to fall a little more in love with each other.  Imagine how perspectives change when that is our framework.  Instead of waiting in judgment on someone, we would anxiously anticipate what there is to love.  We will not be disappointed.  You know when we ask others, “What do you see in that person?”  What if we really wanted to hear the answer?  Do you realize that every person laughs differently?  Isn’t that amazing?  And because it is different, it resonates in our hearts the way no other laugh could.  We all look and feel and pray differently – an endless array of angles from which we can transform each other’s lives.  If we simply searched for what is lovable, where Christ is, we would be inundated by beauty.  It would overwhelm us.

Through his wisdom, his forthrightness and his courage, John naturally aroused suspicion that he might be the messiah himself.  Humbly he rejects the suggestion and promises “one mightier than I.”  He is just the guy getting us ready.  Let us get ready so that when Jesus does come again, we will recognize him for we would have sought him in every person.  We will be prepared for his beauty, for it is what we have seen in every person.  We will accept his love, for we had done our best to love one another at least a little bit the way Jesus has loved us.  That is preparing the way of the Lord.