A Reflection on the Third Sunday of Advent
By: Ralph McCloud
“What should we do then?”
What should we do then when there are 42 million people living in poverty in our country? Nearly a quarter of them children? What should we do then? When the children of God are divided by race, income level, ideology, borders, religion, and creed?
What should we do then? When violence seems to be the answer to unwanted pregnancies? When neighborhood disputes are settled with weapons and neighborhood schools are fearful of gun violence? When families are forced to flee violence and danger, even if it means facing denigration, poverty, and gross disrespect? When we find ourselves desperate and at the end of our proverbial ropes?
This is the question that opens this Sunday’s Gospel: "What should we do?"
The crowds weren’t quite ready for John's response, which was to give half of the two shirts they owned. It was a suggestion to share deeply of that which God has so abundantly blessed them with. A "deep sharing," so deep that they were to share of their food.
Perhaps for us, too, this is the answer to “what shall we do then?" When observing our sisters and brothers who suffer from poverty, violence, hunger, and deprivation, perhaps we are invited into this deep sharing — a sharing that extends outside our circle of family and loved ones at Christmas to include those looked down upon, those despised, the "least of these."
The tax collectors became excited when they heard that even they were invited into baptism. The crowd likely thought, "Tax collectors? Really now?" but John warned them to treat them fairly. He told them not to overcharge or judge, because there is something awesome on the horizon.
John speaks of someone mightier than he who will baptize with the Spirit! We find ourselves, too, in a posture of waiting for the coming of our Savior. But during the interim, we are advised to share and not judge.
This season, we are called into Christ's "deep sharing," giving half of our “shirts”and half our "food.” The Gospel invites us to go beyond the temptation to judge those who are often seen in a negative light — the tax collectors of our modern day.
In this season between Thanksgiving and Christmas, can we give thanks not only for all our blessings, but also for the opportunity to see and hear firsthand exactly what we should do. In that assurance, we await the birth of the poor, homeless, infant refugee with a renewed grace and purposeful vision.
Ralph McCloud is the Director for the Catholic
Campaign for Human Development at the
United States Conference of Catholic
Bishops. He also serves on CMN's
Board of Directors.