Third Sunday of Advent

Once again our attention is drawn to John the Baptist. The gospel passage we read today is divided into two sections, both of them full of good news. The first gives us a taste of John’s preaching to ordinary people: tax-collectors, soldiers and the like. We are given a heart-warming message of non-violence, honesty, truth, sharing, justice, kindness, mercy, contentment, compassion and generosity. The second gives us a taste of John’s messianic preaching. John tells the people that one mightier than he was coming whose sandals he was not fit to tie. The symbolism is one of humble service. John baptises with water but the Messiah will baptise with Spirit and fire, ready to set God’s saving harvest in motion. As Christmas approaches we are invited to reflect on the future that awaits us and how we will live it. Are we ready to let a compassionate Jesus winnow our lives and burn our dead chaff? Are we ready to let him draw us ever more fully into new life? Are we open to Christ’s transfiguring mercy? Are we ready to bring the light of joy to the world? Are we ready to produce fruit worthy of repentance? Are we ready to live an ethics of contentment and generosity as the Baptist urges all of us to do! God really wants us. God really loves us. God really looks at us with eyes full of mercy. But every genuine turning to God challenges us to expand our hearts. Turning to God is made real by serving others.