“What should we do?” by Fr. Robert Manansala, OFM

This personal and self-implicating question needs to be answered during this season of prayer, reflection and self-examination.

The Third Sunday of Advent has been called Gaudete Sunday, after the Latin gaudete, “to rejoice.” The mood of joyful expectation is what characterizes the readings for this Sunday. The First Reading from the Book Of Zephaniah (Zep 3:14-18a) addresses four imperative verbs to Jerusalem in calling her to rejoice: “Shout for joy! Sing joyfully! Be glad and exult with all your heart!” The Lord is “in your midst” bringing about salvation, and this calls for rejoicing.

In the Second Reading Paul exhorts the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always! I say it again. Rejoice!” (Phil 4:4-7). “Rejoice in the Lord” is a common Pauline phrase that implies union with Christ as the very source of joy. In the face of tribulations and trials, joy is experienced as an interior peace in the Lord that “guards our minds and hearts.”

But before we can truly celebrate the joy of God’s presence and salvation, we must first allow ourselves to be confronted by John the Baptist. John reminds us that repentance is the only Advent route as we continue to prepare
for the Lord’s coming.

The Gospel periscope today (Lk 3: 10-18) consists of an exchange between John and the crowd, the tax collectors and the soldiers on the question, “What should we do?” and of John’s response to the question of his identity vis-a-vis the Christ.

“What should we do?” is the same question that the crowds ask at Pentecost in response to Peter’s preaching (Acts 2:37). John’s answers to the said groups of seekers confront the issues of inequalities and injustices prevalent in the society. Those who have clothes and food must share with those who have none. Tax collectors must stop imposing exorbitant taxes that oppress people. Soldiers must cease victimizing citizens with extortion, threat and blackmail. In short, people must change their ways and dealings with others.

The answers of John the Baptist to the seekers are to be pursued in response to the need to “straighten the paths” and “smoothen the ways”of one’s life for the coming of the Lord and His offer of salvation. The advent of the Lord demands personal conversion, communal renewal and social and structural transformation.

Each one of us is challenged to grapple with the same question, “What should we do?” as we continue our Advent journey. This personal and self-implicating question needs to be answered during this season of prayer, reflection and self-examination. Joy springs out of the experience of renewed conversion to the Lord and to His ways and of turning away from sinful, immoral and unethical practices.

Like John the Baptist, we must also know who we are before the Messiah. Pope Benedict XVI said, “John plays
a great role, but always in relation to Christ.” John, without any pretense and usurpation of the Lord’s identity,
declares that he is only the unworthy herald of the mighty Messiah. The Messiah’s baptism is a baptism of the
Holy Spirit and of fire; his is only a baptism of water, of repentance and of forgiveness.

St. Francis of Assisi prayed, “Who are you, Lord my God, and who am I?” These two questions are fundamental
not only to the Christian life but also to the Advent journey. The question, “What should we do?” can only be
properly faced by asking and answering first, “Who are you, Lord my God, and who am I ?”

Our Lord Jesus, by embracing with great humility and generosity the mystery of the Incarnation and the Passion of the Cross, has shown us the human face of God. He is our Messiah who has revealed to us God’s unconditional, boundless and forgiving love. In response, we can try to be the very best that we can be in relation to God, to others and to ourselves. Then, we begin to authentically experience the joy of living in the Lord who is Emmanuel, God-with-us.

as published on December 16, 2012, Parish Bulletin
About Fr. Robert and his reflections