“What should we do?”
We are entering into the third week of advent by singing “Rejoice in the Lord always and I say Rejoice.” Two weeks have passed and we need to take stock of our preparation to see what we have achieved and what more needs to be done. The decorations are being done, shopping is going on full swing, invitations to parties are sent out and menu for the dinner is prepared. These are the external, but what about our internal preparations? Are ours hearts ready to welcome Christ? Or do we need to do something more radical in order that the Lord may be born in us.
John the Baptist cries out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight his paths.” He shows us the kind of preparation we need to do in order to be ready to meet the Lord, the Prince of Peace. John’s preaching focuses on the baptism of repentance – a conversion of one’s heart. Just as the desert is a place of silence and peace, our hearts must be converted into a desert of peace and quietness – free from anything that could hinder us from hearing and seeing God.
In today’s gospel, John the Baptist gives us concrete examples of how we can truly achieve a joyful encounter with the Lord in the peace and tranquility of our human heart. A real encounter with the Lord is not something cerebral; it has to be translated into action to bear fruit. We have to make every effort to make it a reality and to make it happen in our daily life. John’s cry in the wilderness did yield response from those who listened to him with an open heart and mind. The people of various categories approached John to find a way they could renew their lives and experience an inner conversion of their heart. To each he had a very powerful message or a plan of action.
The general public he tells them; to share what we have with those who do not have and to avoid greed by all means.
To the Tax collectors; to promote justice and to avoid taking advantage of others;
To the soldiers; to be contented with what we have and avoid coveting what rightfully belongs to another person.
The encounter of the rich young man with Jesus: what must I do to gain eternal life? Obey the commandments and he seems to be in conformity with it. Then he wanted to know anything more and the Lord told him there is one thing more that you have to do and he was eager to hear about it. Sell what you have and give to the poor and come follow me. His face fell at this and went away sad. He is the only one goes away sad after encountering Jesus.
The rich men and Lazarus: The rich man was selfish and never cared or shared with the poor man who was at his doorstep.
Look the transformation of Zacchaeus after encountering the Lord; he was willing to give away all what he amassed from others.
At the judgment the Lord is going to ask everyone what you have done. Those who have done good deeds the Lord acknowledges them. Whatever you have done to the least of my brothers you have done for me.
The Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea are formed by the same water supply. It flows down, clear and untarnished, from Mount Hermon. The Sea of Galilee makes beauty of its water, for the sea has an outlet. It gets to give. It gathers in its riches that it may pour them out again to fertilize the Jordan plain. The Dead Sea, on the other hand, with the same source of refreshing water, is desolate and not clean, for the Dead Sea has no outlet. It gets only to keep. Interestingly, unselfish and selfish people act much the same way. Unselfish people get to give and luxuriate in their generosity while selfish people only get to keep and stagnate into desolation.
Are we not selfish sometimes than other oriented, are our preoccupations always centered on our plans than God’s plan? It is here his message become relevant. We also need to share and care for those who are deprived not only in material things, but also in time, care and concern for others. Today, John the Baptist exhorts us to eliminate from our hearts whatever impedes us from welcoming Jesus, namely, selfishness, greed, individualism, discrimination, and other vicious thoughts that we cultivate in our hearts.
Many of us are unhappy in life simply because we fail to appreciate what we have and just be contented with the gifts and talents God has given us. Our desire to have more money, prestige and power has brought forth misery, anxiety and general discontent. We have started to disregard the gifts we have and covet what others have, thus leading us to lose our inner peace and serenity. As we walk in our Advent journey, let us then transform our hearts of “stone” into hearts of “flesh” as God spoke to the prophet of Ezekiel. The evil desires, bad thoughts and ill feelings that once thrived will be completely uprooted and a new “natural” heart will start to grow where love, justice and peace will flourish. We need to be reconciled with God and others in order to enjoy the gift of God. During this Year of Mercythe Lord is awaiting us to pour out his mercy on us. All that we need is to approach him with a repentant heart.
While working on his famous painting, “The Last Supper”, Leonardo Da Vinci had an argument with a certain man. He lashed out against the fellow with bitter words and threatening gestures. When the argument was over, da Vinci went back to his canvas where he was working on the face of Jesus. He could not make one stroke. At last he realized what the trouble was. He put down his brush, found the man he had offended, and asked his forgiveness. He returned to his studio and calmly continued painting the face of Jesus.
In his exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel” Pope Francis remarks, “Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, an the desire to do good fades.”