The Third Sunday of Advent at Saint William Parish in Naples, FL
16 December 2018 at Saint William Church in Naples, Fl
Zephaniah 3,14-18 + Psalm Isaiah 12 + Philippians 4, 4-7 + Luke 3, 10-18
The prophet is the voice of God speaking in this assembly today. This prophet whose voice cries out to us is a man whose authenticity is beyond question because of his honesty and his passion for justice. Unafraid to speak truth those in power, he deserves the same respect and attention today that he earned ages ago. Here was a man who cared nothing for comfort, money, or fame. He could not be bought or manipulated by anything or anybody. For the people of his time and for all of us in this time, he still speaks for God with a message that is direct and simple.
There is no watering down what he proposes. There is no way to intellectualize or avoid his message. It is so urgent and clear that people asked, “What shall I do?” If we believe as they did that a Prophet is the voice of God, we should be asking the same question. “What shall I do?” This has nothing to do with “What shall I buy or give” or, “What will I get for Christmas?” The question has to do with, “How I shall make ready for the coming of Christ?” This message is not a seasonal one or something we just think about at Christmas. It is something that should nag at us all the time.
John does not ask tax collectors to stop collecting. He does not tell soldiers to desert. To the tax collectors he simply says, “Do not collect more than the amount owed to you.” To the soldiers he says, “Do not extort money from anyone or intimidate them with threats. Be satisfied with your wage.” There is nothing profound or complicated about this. It is simply the rule of integrity. The message is timeless, the Word of God is alive, and God speaks to us in this assembly. Do not cheat. Share what you have. Be honest. Never use or exploit others for your gain, comfort, or security. Being prepared for the coming of the Messiah requires no great heroics although sometime heroics might seem easier than living a humdrum daily life well. Let’s be clear about one thing: when we speak of and anticipate the coming of Christ, we are not in some nostalgic fantasy imagining Christmas in Bethlehem. We are thinking about and anticipating our death and the final coming of Christ at the end, which we may not really want to think about right now. Be that as it may, the whole divine plan beginning in Nazareth and Bethlehem was to save us and prepare us for that day when we shall stand before God face to face. When we are sincerely facing that reality, the question: “What shall I do?” is very real and very urgent. To that question the prophet speaks today. How do we get to ready to die and face the Christ? It’s not hard nor complicated. None of us here have to do anything really remarkable to be ready. What God expects of us that we simply live life with integrity and honesty, with a passion and desire for justice and truth. That may require some repentance, some changing of our ways, our thoughts, and our desires. The good news is, there is still a little time to do that, and John would suggest that we not waste this time.