Third Sunday of Advent

Fr. Eddie Samaniego, SJ

Third Sunday of Advent

Zephaniah 3:14-18a/Philippians 4:4-7/Luke 3:10-18

What should we do?

John the Baptist’s reputation grew so much that people came from all over to ask, “What must I do to amend my life?” His message was one of repentance, understood as re-looking at each life, and then letting oneself be changed by the re-look. John knew his people well enough to assign them things that would lead them to God. They want what we want, the joy of doing what leads to God + leaving behind what doesn’t.

Imagine a coin. Coins have 2 faces. The mercy coin has as its other face: justice, or right relationship. Consider it a gift from God for life.

2016 marked Pope Francis’ Year of Mercy, calling us to be more merciful, more just. Social Mercy means that we invite the people who have the power and authority to make changes, to show mercy such that they obtain mercy, as the Beatitudes say. I’m saying Social Mercy these days because Social Justice is either a dirty word, or it is totally mis-understood. Justice in America means fairness and equal treatment. But Biblical Justice means “right-relationship.”

A wise mother knows that, if we were to ask her which of her kids does she love most, she’d answer, the one who needs her the most right now. So, Social Justice, and its flip side, Social Mercy means we seek those who need us the most right now and fill their needs.

There are many needs the poor and outcast need to have filled. Some are direct, bodily needs. These we fill with the Corporal Works of Mercy. Some are psychological or spiritual needs. These we fill with the Spiritual Works of Mercy. To be socially merciful, we need to fill both the bodily and the spiritual needs as Jesus did, for this was his mission.

Some needs can only be filled by a change in social structures and practices. Not all people here have an equal voice. We step up for them and become their defenders and advocates. We go directly to those who have the power/authority, and ask them to make the necessary changes.

Community organizations dedicate themselves to doing this.

Well, perhaps you’re good at helping the poor fend for themselves, discerning better decisions or helping them out of poverty. Employment centers, counseling centers, resource centers, or housing centers might be calling you. Or, you might help tutor kids with academic problems.

John the Baptist helped his people understand what to do like St. Ignatius helped us Jesuits. Ignatius says: the just thing, the right thing, the merciful thing to do is to use what helps us come to God. For John, the just, the right, the merciful thing to do is to undo our sinfulness.

If our president, our elected state or city officials, or our business leaders were to ask John what they must do, he’d say, “You who value families, reform our Immigration policy to keep families together. You, who defend “fine-print” contracts, write ones that are easy to read, understand, and honor. You, who are aiding and abetting in Mother Earth’s destruction, which God created and loves, go to the UN and call all nations to unite and stop global-warming and global pollution.

If Bishops were to come to John, he would say, “Be humble, holy, and pastoral. Stop holding the institutional church above reproach, for she’s made up entirely of sinful, and hopefully, not corrupt, sinners. Be pastorally right 1st, and legally right 2nd. Make our sacraments available to everyone, if we believe sacraments to be signs of God’s presence.”

We can go on and on, but you get the point. We’re all included in these admonitions because, whether we speak out or not, shows whether we’re part of the problem or part of the solution. Advent is the time to consider being part of the solution to human problems in love + mercy.

Paul said, “Rejoice in the Lord… who is near.” (Phil 4:4-5) That’s the message behind the pink Advent-candle on this Gaudete or Rejoicing Sunday. If Jesus were to return to the earth this Christmas, would he be proud of us as true disciples and apostles? I pray we can say, “yes!”

What should we do?

John the Baptist’s reputation grew so much that people came from all over to ask, “What must I do to amend my life?” His message was one of repentance, understood as re-looking at each life, and then letting oneself be changed by the re-look. John knew his people well enough to assign them things that would lead them to God. They want what we want, the joy of doing what leads to God + leaving behind what doesn’t.

Imagine a coin. Coins have 2 faces. The mercy coin has as its other face: justice, or right relationship. Consider it a gift from God for life.

2016 marked Pope Francis’ Year of Mercy, calling us to be more merciful, more just. Social Mercy means that we invite the people who have the power and authority to make changes, to show mercy such that they obtain mercy, as the Beatitudes say. I’m saying Social Mercy these days because Social Justice is either a dirty word, or it is totally mis-understood. Justice in America means fairness and equal treatment. But Biblical Justice means “right-relationship.”

A wise mother knows that, if we were to ask her which of her kids does she love most, she’d answer, the one who needs her the most right now. So, Social Justice, and its flip side, Social Mercy means we seek those who need us the most right now and fill their needs.

There are many needs the poor and outcast need to have filled. Some are direct, bodily needs. These we fill with the Corporal Works of Mercy. Some are psychological or spiritual needs. These we fill with the Spiritual Works of Mercy. To be socially merciful, we need to fill both the bodily and the spiritual needs as Jesus did, for this was his mission.

Some needs can only be filled by a change in social structures and practices. Not all people here have an equal voice. We step up for them and become their defenders and advocates. We go directly to those who have the power/authority, and ask them to make the necessary changes.

Community organizations dedicate themselves to doing this.

Well, perhaps you’re good at helping the poor fend for themselves, discerning better decisions or helping them out of poverty. Employment centers, counseling centers, resource centers, or housing centers might be calling you. Or, you might help tutor kids with academic problems.

John the Baptist helped his people understand what to do like St. Ignatius helped us Jesuits. Ignatius says: the just thing, the right thing, the merciful thing to do is to use what helps us come to God. For John, the just, the right, the merciful thing to do is to undo our sinfulness.

If our president, our elected state or city officials, or our business leaders were to ask John what they must do, he’d say, “You who value families, reform our Immigration policy to keep families together. You, who defend “fine-print” contracts, write ones that are easy to read, understand, and honor. You, who are aiding and abetting in Mother Earth’s destruction, which God created and loves, go to the UN and call all nations to unite and stop global-warming and global pollution.

If Bishops were to come to John, he would say, “Be humble, holy, and pastoral. Stop holding the institutional church above reproach, for she’s made up entirely of sinful, and hopefully, not corrupt, sinners. Be pastorally right 1st, and legally right 2nd. Make our sacraments available to everyone, if we believe sacraments to be signs of God’s presence.”

We can go on and on, but you get the point. We’re all included in these admonitions because, whether we speak out or not, shows whether we’re part of the problem or part of the solution. Advent is the time to consider being part of the solution to human problems in love + mercy.

Paul said, “Rejoice in the Lord… who is near.” (Phil 4:4-5) That’s the message behind the pink Advent-candle on this Gaudete or Rejoicing Sunday. If Jesus were to return to the earth this Christmas, would he be proud of us as true disciples and apostles? I pray we can say, “yes!”