By Fr. Michael Seheri from South Africa
Luke 3: 10-18
This Sunday’s Gospel continues last Sunday’s emphasis on John the Baptist and his mission in preparing the way for the Lord. Recall that last Sunday’s Gospel depicted the Baptist’s appearance in the desert and created his link with the prophetic tradition of Israel. If we were to read the Gospel of Luke on a continuous basis, we would note the Baptist challenging the people who came to him and calling upon them to demonstrate proof of their conversion. John tells the crowds that they cannot depend upon their lineage as Israelites because the progeny of Abraham can be raised up from stones. Repentance, instead, ought to be discernible in one’s deeds. Here, Luke is continuing to set up two significant motifs of his Gospel message: the Christian faith is evinced in one’s actions and the invitation to salvation is offered to everyone, Jews and Gentiles alike.
In today’s Gospel, the crowds ask John the Baptist for distinct details. What proof of repentance is required? John responds by outlining concrete deeds: people should share their cloaks and food; tax collectors must be just; soldiers ought to act fairly. The concern for justice is a trademark of Luke’s Gospel.
When the crowds start to wonder if John might be the promised Messiah, John interprets his baptism and affirms that his ministry is in preparation for the Messiah. The Baptist knows his role in God’s salvific plan. By exhorting the crowd to act likewise in conformity with their stations in life, the Baptist’s message suggests that each person has a mission in God’s salvation. It is the great mystery of our salvation that God allows and even requires human cooperation in his divine plans.
The third Sunday of Advent is also called Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is a Latin term for “rejoice.” This word comes from the entrance antiphon for Sunday’s Mass, which is also echoed in the second reading. This Sunday is highlighted, among other things, by using a rose liturgical colour instead of a purple one. It is a reminder that the Advent season is a season of joy because our salvation is already at hand.