Photo illustration by Phil Younk
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Baptist’s message still relevant today

Based on Zep 3:14-18a; Phil 4:4-7; Gospel of Lk 3:10-18
“Rejoice.” “The Lord is near.”

On this Third Sunday of  Advent (Gaudete Sunday – Gaudete meaning “rejoice), both readings from Zephaniah and St. Paul call for joy and gladness in the divine presence. The prophet Zephaniah speaks of God’s restoration and protection of Jerusalem. St. Paul speaks of prayer, petition and thanksgiving – to bring everything to God, no matter how big or small, with gratitude and trust, for his guidance and help. God is with his people in every circumstance.

In Luke’s Gospel, the topic is still repentance. John the Baptist has a simple, no-nonsense response to the people’s repeated question, “What should we do?” He tells them to turn away from sin and to exercise their responsibilities as honestly and virtuously as possible.

John so excited the people they wonder if he was the expected messiah. John quickly says, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

Those baptisms in the Jordan River were a sign of people’s willingness to change their sinful ways. Jesus came to earth not only to save us from our sins, but also to call us to a whole new way of living in union with him. Our baptism fills us with the Holy Spirit and calls us, as children of God, to be other-centered in Christ – to see, choose and act as Jesus does. It means surrendering to Jesus.

What John the Baptist told people to do then is just as important today. People are in need – unemployed, homeless, hungry, sad and lonely, brokenhearted, sick, and dying. We must reach out to meet those needs. It all comes down to love.

Pope Benedict XVI, in his weekly general audience on Dec. 5, said, “In the midst of many difficulties, Advent invites us once again to renew our certainty that God is present. He entered into the world, becoming human like us, in order to bring to fullness his plan of love.”

The Holy Father continued, “God asks that we, too, become signs of his action in the world. Through our faith, our hope and our charity, he wants to enter into the world again and make his light shine in our darkness.” Come, Lord Jesus!