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Third Sunday,Advent,Dec.17,2000 C.Lk.3:10-18

3rd Sunday of Advent,C,Dec.17,2000

Walker Percy, one of our noted novelists once observed that it is strange to find Christians so unhappy in their faith in spite of their claim that they have the Good News. Percy’s observation has a lot of truth in it because of the way we live our faith. Many of us experience our faith as a sort of long list of obligations to do and view it as something that kills the joy of life, asking us to deny everything that we think is pleasurable and capable of giving joy. So many of our people born and brought up in the faith leave the Church for one reason or another. They don’t find their church, their faith communities attractive enough to draw them towards them. According to the 1999 Year Book of American and Canadian Churches, out of the 61 million Catholics in the United States, 17 million are non-practicing Catholics. It is against the background of this lack of interest in the faith and disenchantment, that we have to look at the readings of today which prompt us to have a very different outlook on our faith.

On this third Sunday of Advent, celebrated as a Joyful Sunday, all the readings present before us a vision of faith charged with joy and expectation. To a people falling into the ways of unfaithfulness and deception in their practice of religion, the prophet holds before them the fact of everlasting presence of God in their midst asking them “ to be glad and exult” with all their heart. He wants to inspire them and give them hope and not to allow them into the abyss of helplessness and despair. He reminds with words ringing with hope by saying that the mighty savior is in their midst and the he will “ renew them “ in love and will sing joyfully because of them. How heartening it was for them to hear that the Lord Almighty would be happy because of them and would remove judgment against them. How happy we are to hear that Our Lord is in our midst and that he will remove judgment against us, and will sing because of us. Instead of condemnation, and judgment, he will offer us forgiveness and mercy. Even when we have sinned , even we are caught up in the vicious grip of habitual sins and weakness, to know that the Lord’s mercy will envelop us and that He will wrap us around with his love to strengthen us against our failures and will offer us a chance to be reunited with him is a matter of great joy for us. This is the reason for hope and that is why St. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Philippians not to have any anxiety and make our petition to God with “ prayer, and thanksgiving.”

This feeling of hope is very powerfully and eloquently expressed by John the Baptist when he announces the arrival of a new era when Jesus would baptize everyone with the Holy Spirit and fire. The crowds, the soldiers, the tax collectors and all kinds of people asked him what they should do. He said, “Share what you have, be generous in giving, and not to harm people with extortion and accusations. In short, be of good heart, generous, caring and forgiving. Today, if we ask John the Baptist what we should do the answer would be the same. As priests, teachers, professionals, lawyers, Govt. Officials, parents, husbands, wives if we ask the John the Baptist, what we should do to have joy and peace in our lives, the answer would be the same: Share what you have, be loving and forgiving.

There will be people around us who need our help. There will be people struggling hard to pay for the education of their children, who are struggling to meet the expenses of their daily needs. We can adopt a child’s fee for a month at our schools, pay a month’s rent to some one in need, to visit the elderly in our families and spend some time with them. It is also possible for us to shut our mouth and not to explode in anger when some one insults us. There are hundreds of ways in which we can make ourselves available, caring and forgiving. We cannot just close our eyes to the needs of people and go about immersing ourselves in the external celebrations of Christmas. As Thomas Merton points out, “Christian charity is no longer real unless it is accompanied by a concern with social justice.” Referring to the parable of the Good Samaritan, Merton observes further: “ It was the good Jews, the priest, and the Levite, who left the wounded man in the ditch. Only stranger and the outcast condescended to help him. Who are we? Priests, Levites, or Samaritans?”

This is the day for us to rejuvenate ourselves with the presence of the Lord in our midst, to feel hopeful and buoyant by our faith and not to allow ourselves to be victims of pessimism, dismay gloom or any other kind of defeatism. Jesus is present in our lives and hence nothing can destroy our inner peace. Hence let us pray to the Lord with all the fervor in our heart, “Come Lord, come into my heart with all the power of your love, make me an instrument of your peace and joy in my home, neighborhood and workplaces.”

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