Have you ever stopped to think about the things that you know?

Gospel of Luke 5:1-11

Have you ever stopped to think about the things that you know? For example, you may know a person, or a thing, or a job. You can know someone by name, or where they come from, or even know where they stand. You can know something like the back of your hand or like the palm of your hand, whichever one you know better. You can know your job backwards and forwards or forwards and backwards. You can know where you have been, where you are at, and where you are going. You can know the ropes, know the score, and it is sometimes very helpful to know your place.

However, have you ever stopped to consider the things that you don’t know. For example, you may not know someone from Adam. Or, you may not know enough to come out of the rain. Or, you may not even know if you are coming or going. You may not know where to look, or how to begin, and there are times when you don’t know whether to laugh or to cry. There are moments when we must admit that we know that heaven only knows and that there are times when we are just better off not knowing at all.

I would dare say that for most of us what we don’t know far exceeds what we do know.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus challenges us on both accounts. He challenges us on what we know and invites us to learn what we don’t.

In Luke’s Gospel, after having finished speaking to the crowd, Jesus turned to Peter and said, “”Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” To Peter, an experienced fisherman, who had just spent the entire previous night fishing with no success, responds to Jesus’s request with a warning. He states, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing.” Peter, who knew how to fish, may have been trying to tell Jesus, who, in Peter’s estimation, wasn’t an experienced and accomplished fisherman, that the likelihood of success was not very good. He may have been trying to spare Jesus the embarrassment of failure.

Peter knew how to fish. He knew when to fish and where to fish. Peter and his business partners, James and John, may not have known the first thing about carpentry, but they knew a lot about fishing.

We too, like Peter, know things. We know ourselves, our lives, our family, our friends, and our neighbors. Our knowledge determines how we interact with one another and causes us to behave in prescribed and predictable ways. However, there are times, just like Peter, when Jesus asks us to go beyond the limitations of our knowledge, take risks, and follow him.

Sometimes what we know prevents us from following Christ. For example, we know that if we give the disheveled looking person standing at the entrance of Wal-Mart $5, they will just spend it on alcohol, so we don’t practice Christian charity. We know that the person sitting in church who speaks a different language, or comes from a different place, or has different political, religious, or social opinions will be difficult to get along with, so we refuse to join them in Christian solidarity. We resist in showing kindness or friendship to the person who goes to a different church or doesn’t even go to church, and ignore Jesus’s command to be a servant to all. There are countless different ways in which our knowledge gets in the way of our obedience.

Though Peter knew better than to go fishing at a time and in a place that had he knew to be barren and fruitless, he responds to Jesus in faith and states, “At your command I will lower the nets.”

As they hauled in the nets, overflowing with fish, Peter was forced to confront his personal biases, self-created beliefs, and acknowledge his sinfulness. Up until that moment Peter had seen Jesus as a miracle worker, a faith healer, an itinerant preacher. He knew Jesus as an individual who spoke with authority and performed mighty deeds but had not known him as his Lord. When Peter’s self-constructed ideals were vanquished, he was able to see Jesus as for who he truly was. What Jesus provided Peter that day was not just a plentiful harvest of material blessings, but he gave Peter something, and more importantly someone, to believe in and to follow. Peter and his fishing partners James and John left everything and followed Jesus.

My sisters and brothers in Christ, Peter is our example. We too are called to “put out into the deep.” We too are called to “lower our nets” and place our faith in our Lord and Savior when everything we know tells us otherwise. Jesus called Peter, James, and John to be “fishers of men.” Men who follow him for the sake of others. That call was not unique nor exclusive in its purpose. We too have been called to be fishers of men and we too have the same purpose.

Our challenge today is to place our knowledge, and our talents, and our skills into the loving hands of Jesus. Peter was not asked to abandon his knowledge and skill, he still had to row the boat, drop the nets, and haul them back in. Rather he was called to put his knowledge and skill to use for the kingdom of God. We too have been called for that same purpose.

My friends, it is not what you know, nor is it what you don’t know; rather it is who you know and YOU, who know Jesus, are called to be “fishers of men.”

I Chose the Mustang

Gospel of Luke 4:21-30

My first car was a 1981 Ford Mustang. It was blue, it had tinted windows and leather looking plastic bucket seats. I had worked and saved money and right before the start of my Junior year in high school my parents and I drove to Casper, Wyoming, wandered the lots of every used car dealer, searching for the “perfect” car. The perfect car that I could afford, that is.

My father had helped me narrow the list to 2 cars. The 1981 Ford Mustang, the car I wanted, and a blue 1984 Ford Escort, the car my father wanted for me. The Escort was newer, had less miles, got better gas mileage, and overall was in much better condition than the Mustang. I chose the Mustang.

I remember driving that car home listening to Van Halen on cassette thinking I was the coolest kid in the world. I had worked hard, saved money, and now I was driving a car of my very own.

A car, for me meant freedom. I could now go where I wanted, when I wanted, and I would no longer ask permission to borrow my mother’s Buick. The Mustang was cool (though to be honest the 80’s were the worst period of design for the Ford Mustang) and I could play my music on the stereo as loud as I wanted. I didn’t so much buy a car that day, as much as an idea. An idea that fulfilled an expectation.

Expectations are funny. We all have them. We all believe in things, events, places, and most especially, people. The word expectation is defined as: “a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.” A simple enough definition indeed, but what isn’t contained in this definition is the power, influence, and control our expectations have over our behavior.

Our expectations oftentimes drive our relationships. They influence our interactions with one other. They dictate how we work, if we work, and how we save or spend our money. Expectations dictate where we go, why we go there, and what we want when we get there. They determine how we behave in different social settings and how we expect others to behave. Our expectations have an impact on who we are, what we do, and what we want from others.

In today’s Gospel Jesus confronts expectations.

Today’s Gospel picks up right where last week’s Gospel leaves off. Jesus, after traveling the region of Capernaum, had arrived in his home town. His friends, relatives, and acquaintances were eagerly looking forward to his arrival and the miracles and signs that he would do there.

Instead, Jesus challenges their expectations and chastises their lack of understanding. Instead of performing wonderous signs and miracles he reminds them of the Old Testament stories about the widow and Naaman, both Gentiles. He reminds them that these Gentiles received blessings from God and how the rest of Israel, God’s chosen people, continued in their suffering.

He confronted their expectations in regards to birth-right and who is deserving of God’s blessings and, in essence, told them that their expectations were wrong. Their response to being told that their expectations were wrong is very similar to ours today. They were disappointed, which then turned into resentment, and then into anger, and in their anger, they rejected Jesus.

We do that.

We too have expectations of Jesus. We expect that Jesus will fix all our problems, eliminate our struggles, and make others think and behave the way we want them too. And when he doesn’t. When he doesn’t make money magically appear, or miraculously fix our broken water heaters, or cause those who are in opposition to us to align with our thinking, we become disappointed, resentful, and angry.

Jesus came to save us and to be our friend. A friendship founded in and fostered in love. He loves us and he expects us to love him and one another. When we altar that expectation we then run the risk of responding to Jesus the way his friends, relatives, and acquaintances did. We run the risk of rejecting him and denying him the opportunity to treat us as a friend.

Though I thought that all my expectations were met by that 1981 Ford Mustang, in time I learned that I had made the wrong choice. The inherent problems of a well-used car began to become evident shortly after I had purchased it. Now, knowing hindsight is 20/20, it is okay to say, because it taught me a lesson. A lesson that I frequently have to re-learn, but nonetheless, a lesson that is essential to my Christian walk.

That lesson is this: to put needs ahead of wants and live in love with God and with my neighbor.

My father witnessed that love to me when 1) he recommended a car that would have met my needs, and 2) allowed me to make the wrong choice. Today, as you come before this altar, I challenge you to examine your expectations and to ask God to help you align them in love…his perfect and all-encompassing love.

Bring glad tidings to the poor

Gospel of Luke 1:1-4; 14-21

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.- Lk 4:18-19

Those who would say that the Jesus Christ was not primarily concerned with the poor, the captive, the down-trodden, the marginalized, and the oppressed are ignorant to his very words. In today’s Gospel the ministry of Jesus begins with a proclamation of purpose. A proclamation that Jesus came for the salvation of humankind, all of humankind, and most especially for those who exist in desperate need.

In our modern-day 1st world culture we have allowed ourselves to become insulated from the desperation of the human condition. The images of human suffering filtered through the lens of political opinion and compartmentalized by the refined delicacies of wealth have given permission to the treatment of the human-being as a commodity. A commodity to be exploited for personal and corporate wealth, or power, or pleasure.

The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. The belief that every person is precious, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person is essential to our faith and to our salvation. To diminish, and in some cases even, remove the significance, value, and beauty of the human being is a reprehensible sin against God.

Yet, we do.

In our society abortion, euthanasia, and contraception have pressured us to deny the intrinsic God ordained dignity of life. In response to these evils we often (and rightly so) gather together to protest, to pray, and to stand in line to cast our ballot against these atrocities. However, as we gather in protest or in prayer, or as we make our way to the ballot box, we must not ignore the needs present in our very church, neighborhoods, places of work, or in our communities. The poor, the captive, the down-trodden, the marginalized, and the oppressed surround us and are even present here among us. We, in our imitation of Christ, should never ignore the priority of those for whom he came. In our fervor for a movement, we must not lose our compassion for the individual.

We should never cease in our efforts to move our governmental and social institutions in alignment towards God’s universal call of justice and peace. And, we must not pass over those for whom Jesus Christ came to set free, to give sight, and to release from burden. Those who lie in the shadowy gutters of poverty, captivity, isolation, desperation, and loneliness are our preference. They are our first priority.

Those who by circumstance or consequence lack the ability to change their environment or their station are for us the very ones to whom our first efforts should be given. Those who desperately need the hands of Jesus to lift them from their deprivation should find our hands outstretched in compassion and care. St Vincent de Paul states, “It is not enough to give bread and soup. This the rich can do. You are the servant of the poor… They are your masters.”

The poor are still among us and not just those who lack material and physical need. There are those among us whose poverty is a poverty of friendship. A poverty of legitimate and meaningful relationships. They exist in our world. We pass by them every day. On our travels to and from home, at our places of work, and in our shops, markets, and most definitely, in our Church.

Have we forgotten the very words of Christ? Have we forgotten his call to pick up our cross and follow him? Have we dismissed his mission? His mission to bring glad tidings to the poor!

My brothers and sisters today’s Gospel is a call to action. A reminder that our Savior, our Lord, came to this earth not that we may be men and women of comfort. Not that we should turn our eyes and deafen our ears to the cries and pleas of the hurting, the hungry, and the lonely.

No, my brothers and sisters, our Savior and Lord has called us;
to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing”, and not just in your hearing, but also by your doing.

I like this Gospel story and not just because of the wine

Gospel of John 2:1-11

“Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs.” The Greek word meaning “sign” or “miracle” is used 17 times in John’s Gospel. In comparison, this same Greek word is found a total of 60 times throughout the rest of the New Testament. For the John, the signs of Jesus are not just mighty works, but miracles that unveil the glory and power of God working through Christ. The signs of Jesus recall the signs performed by Moses during the Exodus, that likewise revealed the glory of God working through Moses. John’s Gospel draws attention to seven signs: (1) the miracle at Cana, (2) the healing of the official’s son, (3) the healing of the paralytic, (4) the multiplication of the loaves, (5) the restoration of the blind man, (6) the raising of Lazarus, and, most important of all, (7) the Resurrection of Jesus. For John the signs of Jesus were essential to communicating that God had revealed himself to humankind.

In modern times signs are also important, are they not? They give directions. They tell us how far we have come and how far we have left to go. Signs tell us when to stop and when to start or speed up or slow down. Signs tell us when to stand still, sit down, or drive through. We can read a sign, hold a sign, or even give a sign. We get angry and frustrated when we can’t see a sign and we get angry and frustrated when all we see are signs. Everywhere, every place, everything has a sign. There is even a song about signs;

“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?”

In today’s modern-age it could be argued that without signs there would be chaos, and today’s Gospel is really, all about signs.
In discussion about this Gospel one of my fellow curmudgeons mentioned that this was his favorite Gospel story. When asked why, he stated, “Well because there is wine and… because of Mary.”

I agreed with him. I too do like this Gospel story and not just because of the wine. This brief interaction between Jesus and Mary inspires the imagination and at the same time causes one to reflect upon their own relationship with their own mother. For me, Mary’s simple request, Jesus’s terse response, followed by her instructions to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you” causes me to recall a similar interaction with my own mother.

For me it was garbage. The neighbor’s garbage cans had been turned over and scattered all over the alley by a notorious neighborhood dog. Upon seeing the mess my mother turned to me and said, “Jason go grab a couple of garbage bags and pick all of that up.” I offered my typical response, “Why?” Her answer, “Because I said so.” I cleaned up the mess.

The beauty of today’s Gospel is that in this one moment, in this one interaction, we are given the perfect image of the theological mystery of Jesus; that he is both entirely human and entirely divine. This brief exchange between Jesus and his mother sound clear like an early morning bell calling out that Jesus is one of us. We cannot but help find solidarity with our Savior as we reflect upon the human relationship between a mother and her child. And, at the same time, we are confronted with the mighty power and wonderful majesty of God who not only desires our salvation, but who is also concerned with our human affairs. Jesus’s presence at this marriage feast not only sanctified the covenant of marriage, but also demonstrated God’s abundant blessings for those whom he loves.

“Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs.” He did this as a sign revealing himself as God who came to humankind for the salvation of all humankind. He did this as a sign proving that he is indeed the Son of God, and also the son of Mary, the mother of the church. He did this as a sign beckoning us to place our trust and our hope in him, who turns water into wine, providing for our needs no matter how trivial or small. He did this as a sign that we, here before this altar, may have eternal life and that we may live it abundantly in him.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, today I ask you to read the signs. The signs that Jesus is here and that he is here for you.

The hardest part of being a Christian is actually getting along with other Christians

Gospel of Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

Have any of you ever thought that the hardest part of being a Christian is actually getting along with other Christians? It’s not the faith part or the believing in the life, death, passion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that presents the most difficulty. It’s not the call to charity, to mercy, or to love the lost, hurting, poor, and vulnerable that causes problems. It’s not even that the entire world and all that is seen, unseen, known, and unknown created by an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present God that creates the greatest stumbling blocks. No, typically, the biggest problem with Christianity is having to get along with other Christians.

Am I the only one who feels that way? I am serious… am I the only one who experiences moments of frustration, annoyance, disappointment, and down right anger with other people who are devoted followers of Christ?

On the one hand I hope that I am. I hope that I am the only Christian present who has problems getting along with other Christians. I hope the rest of you have it all figured out and that I am the only one here lacking in Christian charity and love.

However, on the other hand, there is part of me that hopes that I am not. I hope that I am not the only one who struggles with this issue.

I find comfort in believing that I am not the only one who struggles with relationships. I find comfort and hope in the thought that I am not the only believer who has trouble getting along with other believers. Believers who profess the same belief in the same God; believers who profess the same name of Jesus Christ; believers who rely on the same Holy Spirit, and yet, just like me, find it difficult to get along with one another.

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. A feast that recognizes our Lord’s voluntary submission for the fulfillment of all righteousness, and the manifestation of his self-emptying for the salvation of mankind, in obedience to the will of the Father. Today, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we are called by the Church to recall the reality of our own baptism in light of the example of Jesus.

There are 4 things that I ask you to reflect upon this morning.

One, I would ask that you reflect upon the new identity of Jesus as revealed in the symbol of the dove and in the words of God the Father, “You are my beloved Son.” That is not to infer that Jesus was not always the Son of God (a many heretic has been burned at the stake, or worse, for such a claim) rather, that Jesus arose from the waters of the Jordan with the identity of service… service to mankind.

Second, reflect upon his obedience to the will of God the Father, “With you I am well pleased.” Jesus submitted himself to God and to his plan for salvation for the world and in so doing, fulfilled all righteousness. Jesus, a man without sin, yet in his holy perfection was obedient to the will of God the Father which was manifested in his baptism.

Third, consider Jesus’s visible demonstration of solidarity with humanity. He shouldered the burden of our sin, for he himself was without sin, and immersed himself in our pain, misery, brokenness, and suffering and carried our burden to the depths of the Jordan and, ultimately, to the height of the cross.

Finally, consider his self-sacrificing love. His baptism was a manifestation of his love for us. A love that was entirely of his free will and entirely for our benefit. A love that calls us to abandon our selfish desires and ambitions, and to cast off all our burdens, and pick up our cross, and follow after him.

I struggle today my dear brothers and sisters in Christ not because my fellow Christians are so difficult to get along with. I struggle today, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, because I forget the meaning, significance, and reality of my own baptism. A baptism that calls me to live my new identity as a child of God. A baptism that has given me the power to turn away from sin and live in obedience to the will of my Heavenly Father. A baptism that allows me to live in solidarity with you, my brothers and sisters in Christ. A solidarity that joins us together, in spite of our brokenness and pain, to be one in Christ. And finally, a baptism of love. A love that is so grand, so wonderful, so all-encompassing that God the Father gave his only Son for our salvation.

I would like to believe that I am not the only one who struggles living this pilgrim’s journey. I would like to believe that I am not the only one who finds relationships difficult and discouraging. I would like to believe that I am not the only one who needs to be reminded of the example of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and in that example find forgiveness, comfort, and hope.

As you come before this altar to day recall your own identity as a child of God, recall your own call to obedience and submission to the will of God your heavenly Father; recall the solidarity you share with the persons around you; and, finally, recall the self-sacrificing love which has called you, me, and the entire world, including those with whom we quarrel… to eternal salvation.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

Today we celebrate Christmas which is one of the most important days of the Church year. Christmas is the feast of the incarnation, the feast of God becoming flesh, the Nativity of the Lord. We celebrate God becoming man bringing salvation to all of mankind.

Though we as Catholics differentiate the Christmas season from the Advent season, culturally Christmas has become much more than a liturgical day. For us our Christmas Season begins today, but culturally the Christmas season has been going strong since the day after Thanksgiving. For the past 4 weeks we have heard songs about a snowman who comes alive, a reindeer with a glowing nose, and a drummer boy who had nothing to give but a song. For the past 4 weeks we have been baking cookies, writing and mailing Christmas cards, covering homes with brightly colored lights, attending Christmas parties, and greeting each other and strangers with good cheer and best wishes. Though, liturgically, Christmas begins today, that is not true of for us culturally. Culturally, Christmas is even now beginning to come to an end.

Considering the modern-day grandeur and scope of Christmas, its beginnings as a liturgical day and season is not easy to pinpoint. The early church was more concerned about the return of Christ than they were his beginning. In fact, the church celebrated annual feast days of Saints and martyrs before the celebration of the Nativity of the Lord became a tradition.

Though the actual date of the birth of Jesus is unknown, we do know that sometime in the late 3rd to early 4th century December 25 was selected as the Nativity of the Lord. Though still debated today, the theories as to why and how the early church came upon the date of December 25 are based on observable tendencies of the early church.
The early church had a high respect for symbolism. On the Julian calendar the winter solstice fell on December 25, and the symbolism of Jesus Christ, the light of world, coming on the darkest night of the year was not lost on the early church. The early church had a tendency to borrow from the world around them. It is possible that in an attempt to offset the influence of pagan festivals the early church selected the date to coincide with a harvest festival to the Roman god Saturn. Regardless of the specific reason as to why December 25 was chosen, we do know that the date of the Celebration of the Nativity of the Lord has not changed since the early 4th century when it was established.

Since then the traditions surrounding this day have been influenced by culture, both civil and religious alike. From Santa Claus, whose beginnings are found in the stories of the charity and the humility of a 4th century saint named St. Nicolas, to the Christmas tree, which emerged from 17th century Germany when pre-Christian traditions surrounding evergreens and lights melded with the early Christian tradition of a “paradise tree”. Christmas candles, window lights, luminaries, nativity scenes, los posadas, Christmas carols, mistletoe, holly, poinsettias, and Christmas pageants all came from a culture and a people from somewhere other than the 1st century, out-of-the-way, nowhere town called Bethlehem.

Even in my own family our Christmas traditions have evolved and morphed based on cultural and personal tastes. My Norwegian grandfathers would not have dared celebrate Christmas without oyster stew or lutefisk and lefsa, a Christmas tradition that my family gladly abandoned in favor of Red Baron Pizza and spring rolls. In my childhood home my brother and I opened presents on Christmas Eve. My wife, on the other hand, could not even conceive of a Christmas morning without the frantic unwrapping of presents.

To pretend that Christmas, the season, liturgical or otherwise, is not a wonderful, beautiful, fantastic hodge-podge made up of cultural, religious, and personal traditions would be to miss out on the very reason for this glorious day. That reason, that Jesus Christ, son of God, fully man and fully God, came to earth that ALL who believed in him may become children of God. The traditions of this season are what make this season truly unique and significant for during no other time of the year do we celebrate, what we celebrate this day, the way we celebrate it.

We celebrate hope, love, charity, and peace. We celebrate our acceptance of one another and tolerate those who we otherwise would not. It is not our traditions, customs, and practices that make Christmas so special, rather it is the fact that during this time of year, unlike any other, we celebrate that which we share in common…a desire for light in a dark world…a desire for peace and harmony with our fellow man… a desire for salvation and the hope that it brings.

Our challenge this day is not to defend our traditions from the culture around us, rather it is to share our traditions with the culture around us. Our traditions allow us to express the love, hope, charity and peace which were given to all of mankind as a gift, in the form of an infant. Our challenge is to share our hope, love, charity and peace with those around us, and to do so again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day after that, until the Lord comes again in power and glory.

We come to this altar to today in celebration. Celebrating that God came to us…that God is here with us…and that God will someday come again for us.

What should we do?

3rd Sunday of Advent
Gospel of Luke 3:10-18

“What should we do?” A question that rings close to home, does it not? Considering our current social, geo-political, and religious environments I am wondering how often we, here in this sanctuary, have asked ourselves, and each other, that very same question, “what should we do?” Considering St. Luke wrote these words almost 2000 years ago, I find it interestingly significant that the concern, confusion, and desperation of an ancient people has so much relevance and poignancy for us here today.

As we heard in last Sunday’s Gospel, John the Baptist, “a voice crying out in the desert (preparing) the way of the Lord,” was fervently calling a sinful people to repentance. They responded to his call and to his message of hope and, in today’s Gospel, they ask the question of the penitent, “what should we do?” A question that we too often have asked ourselves.

Speaking for myself, I will tell you that I do give the crowd in Luke’s Gospel credit for asking John the Baptist this question. Let me explain.

As a teenager I had both the privilege and the curse of working for my father. As the foreman for a large masonry company I had opportunity to spend every summer of my teenage years working for my dad as a hod-carrier. These summers were a privilege because I got to spend time with my father, the man who taught me how to work hard. These summers were also a curse because I got to spend time with my father, the man who taught me the meaning of hard work. The days were long and hot, the lifting was heavy, and the work was hard and always behind schedule.

I learned a lot of things during those summers. I learned it was best to not let anyone know that you were the boss’s son. I learned that not everyone appreciates a 16-year-old know-it-all, and I learned to never, and I mean never, ask my father, “What do you want me to do next?”

My father’s theory about work is simple; If you have time to ask what you should be doing, then you simply have too much time. Whenever I made the mistake of asking my father what I should be doing, believe you me, he made sure that I never had time to ask that question again.

I am not saying that my dad and John the Baptist have much in common, but when I hear John’s response to the question, “What should we do?”, I hear his reply in my father’s voice.

John does not soften his words or his message. He does not allow for excuses or rationalizations he very plainly and simply answers their question. He tells them to live differently and to do the right thing!

The crowd of people standing before John the Baptist were a people who were in fear of judgement. They were a people who were convicted by their sin. They were a people who were confused, and concerned, and desperately seeking guidance and direction. They were a people who had responded to the Good News and believed they could be saved from condemnation and eternal death. They wanted to know what they needed to do.

The challenge presented to us by today’s Gospel is to find relevance in the instructions of John the Baptist. Is it possible for us living here in this little corner of the world, in modern-day, in a period of time rampant with turmoil, confusion, betrayal, and mistrust, to find guidance and direction? Are the words of John the Baptist just as meaningful and beneficial for us today, as they were some 2000 years ago? Can we really find the answer to our question, “What should we do?”

Yes, I believe we can. I believe we can find relevance in today’s Gospel. And, yes, I believe we can find an answer to our questions, “What should we do?”

First, John tells us to turn our attention to those with the greatest need. He says, “Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.” This Advent season, as we are preparing for the coming of our Lord, we should be taking stock of our abundance and from that abundance we are called to charity. For us, as believers in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, charity is not optional. Our blessed abundance is not for our benefit, rather it is for the benefit for those who are in need.

Second, John tells us to stop exploiting our neighbor and/or our position. His words to the tax collector and to the soldier are clear instructions to cease in taking advantage of another’s weakness or lowly position. A practice we often continue to this day when we continue to deny the rights given by God to all human being: the right to life and a right to those things required for human decency.

Thirdly, John tell us to turn our attention to the one who is coming. He reminds us that, “one mightier than (he) is coming… (who) will baptize… with the holy Spirit and fire.” Just like the crowds of people who ventured out into the desert to hear the words of the man who wore camel hair and ate wild honey and locusts, so too have we, the modern-day follower of Christ, allowed the strife, discontent, and disappointments of this life to diminish our hope. Now more than ever this world needs to hear the message which we have been commissioned to share. A message of hope, and joy, and salvation.

My brothers and sisters in Christ let us today take heed of the words of John the Baptist. Let us repent from our sin, cease our accumulation of more for the sake of having more, and facilitate life in our homes, our places of work, our church, and in our community. May we come before this altar today fully expecting the coming of the Lord and actively and enthusiastically engage in the building of his kingdom. This, the 3rd Sunday of Advent, may be the day we cease to ask, “what should we do?” and actively do that to which God has called us.