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Sermon on the Third Sunday of Advent

On the Gospel of Luke 3: 10-18


If some of you are wondering why I’m wearing pink today, it’s not that I like to flaunt such a fabulous vestment, it’s Gaudete Sunday, from the Latin, ‘Rejoice’. Two down, two to go! The Lord is coming shortly than we expect. It, surely, isn’t my choice if you know what I mean. In fact, I won’t even put on anything pink on normal occasions except maybe when I was working as a student Chaplain in a hospital in NYC back in 2004. Let’s see if I can still pull it out. 


As advent moves to Christmas and as John points to Jesus, holiday shoppers, presumably, are on the lookout for last minute deals. In my estimation, messages of repentance, judgment and second coming would hardly sink into the hearts of people as they become frenzied about what to wear and what to give. It’s better to provide them a laundry list of sites that sell items at affordable prices. And so, I ask, what do stylish dress and excess calories have in common with the imminent coming of the Lord?

Today’s gospel describes the growing disposition and character of those who respond to John’s call for repentance and transformation. What motivates them to drive a long way to the desert is a fact that I still have to figure out. And yet, the amazing thing was, multitudes gathered and that made it mysterious. They were simple, ordinary citizens, ACE Catholics, working hard to make both ends meet, busy people living in a fragmented and diverse society hungry for God’s message, thirsty to hear pearls of wisdom from the prophet. In some cases, we are like them who would rather choose to play sports, watch a game on TV, spend hours in the garden, run errands, read the Sunday newspapers, extend sleeping time perhaps until noon, go picnic or linger over the bagels, the yard and the garage on a given Sunday instead of coming to the church to worship God and catch up for our faith. They were the “see you next week, same time, same station, same pew type of worshipers searching for spiritual experiences in a personal, immediate, often unconventional, and practical ways of living but didn’t find it elsewhere. They were the religious free agents who preferred to listen but not ready for commitment.

When the sermon was over, the crowds came to John and queried, “What are we to do? It was an unexpected, straight forward inquiry pregnant with meaning. And it seemed to be the start of a simple exchange of words, which may be helpful to prepare for the coming of the Lord. Alright John! But, what should we do next? This, I assume, is the turning point of the story. Conversion is always associated with action and not simply wishful thinking. John’s reply to the question was, “If you have any food, share it. If you have two cloaks, share them.” Why food and clothing? Not house or car which is more challenging? Food and clothing are the fundamental needs of human being and sharing these two are the basic expressions of faith. What you eat and what you wear conscious or not, define you. They send social messages. Most of the time you will see me wearing the roman collar, not because I’m obsessed with my uniform. A huge part of it is the discipline of putting on the dress code of my state of life but more importantly, this, I believe, is my identity. Priesthood is unique, sacred and godly. 

John was succinct. He didn’t say, “If you have more than what you need, if you have extras, if you have used clothing in the closet, signature or not, in or out of season, fancy or not, Ross, Macy’s, beyond the rack, 6pm, thrift store, yard sale, etc, give them to those who have less than you have or to those who needed them most. Here’s the deal, whatever you give has a tremendous value to God. These are concrete acts of justice, which are so basic and elementary but thoroughly ignored. From the biblical perspective, justice stemming from the love of God is rule number one. What you have even if you have worked for it must have a social dimension. Ownership is relative and not absolute and the apparent use of private property must always have a social connection. 

To tax collectors, he said, “Don’t take more than what is prescribed.” Don’t use power and influence to extort money from people. And while everybody else was gone, the soldiers came and said, “Any word for us?” No violence, don’t intimidate people and be content with your wages. I have great respect for them because of their readiness to die for their country whose loyalty, dedication and courage are beyond question. John humbly claimed that one mightier than him was to come whose sandals he was not worthy to unfasten. He was the signpost, the arrow, the GPS, Google earth, and the map that always points to someone greater than him. If there’s anything that makes Christians different from the rest, it’s the habit of self-emptying. That’s why faith is rare. It is not for everybody. It’s going to take your precious possessions and valued life investments all for the Glory of God, the salvation of your soul and the well-being of the least on a global scale. Chances are, you won’t reach your high ambitions and lofty aspirations. It does not promise any reward. In fact, it’s going to get your time out of your usual routine. Faith will let you live with the people you normally don’t like to associate, to live, and to smile. But rejoice always because any act of love cannot be outdone. 

If you want to make this advent a memorable one, do something. Do the works of justice: a terrific and wonderful way to prepare for the coming of Christ. In doing so, Paul’s exhortation comes into expression: Rejoice in the Lord always for he has come into your midst and become one of us. Amen.

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A Filipino Catholic Priest, born and raised in Virac, Catanduanes, Philippines, ordained for the Diocese of Tucson, AZ, eleven years in ministry and counting, currently assigned as Pastor of St. Christopher Catholic Parish, Marana, AZ.

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