|by Angela Lambert|
December 13th, 2015; Third Sunday of Advent
Gospel Luke 3:10-18 NAB
The crowds asked John the Baptist, “What should we do?” He said to them in reply, “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He answered them, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.” Soldiers also asked him, “And what is it that we should do?” He told them, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.” Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ. John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people.
Christ, the Image of God through which we were created came to restore that image which had been distorted by sin. St. Athanasius, an early Church Father, beautifully reflected:
|What, then, must God do? or what else was it right to do, but to renew again the grace by which they had been made after His Image, so that through it men might be able once more to know Him? But how could this have been done except by the coming of the very Image Himself of God, our Savior Jesus Christ?|
To prepare for His coming, John the Baptist offers practical advice. God is Justice and Mercy, therefore he instructs his followers to practice justice and mercy in their everyday life. In the same way, Pope Francis has instructed us to not only reflect on God’s mercy but to extend it in practical ways toward others in our everyday life. The Church summarizes the works of mercy under two categories – corporal and spiritual. Corporal works of mercy care for the physical needs of others and the spiritual works of mercy care for those of the soul. Pope Francis encourages us to renew our commitment to practicing them in concrete ways on a regular basis.
Corporal Works of Mercy:
- Feed the hungry
- Give drink to the thirsty
- Clothe the naked
- Shelter the homeless
- Visit the sick
- Ransom the captive (help prisoners)
- Bury the dead
Spiritual Works of Mercy:
- Instruct the ignorant (teaching people about the Christian faith)
- Counsel the doubtful (encouraging someone struggling with the faith)
- Admonish sinners (having the courage to tell someone what they are doing is wrong)
- Bear wrongs patiently
- Forgive offenses willingly
- Comfort the afflicted
- Pray for the living and the dead
Each of these can be practiced in obvious ways of almsgiving, but they can also be practiced in some very ordinary ways if done with love and intentionality. Feeding the hungry can mean going to the grocery store despite being tired or wanting to do anything other than grocery shopping. Giving drink to the thirsty can be smiling when you really want to sigh in exasperation when your child asks for a cup of water or milk just as you are about to go to bed for the night. Admonishing the sinner can mean doing the work of disciplining your children to teach them virtue when you would rather ignore the behavior and avoid the conflict or being honest with your friend when they are doing something wrong. Burying the dead means making the time to attend a funeral even though you are busy. Forgiving offenses willing and bearing wrongs patiently can be the most difficult. This means avoiding anger or retaliation and instead offering patience and understanding. Apply this to driving in traffic, shopping in a busy store, or putting up with annoying traits of your co-workers. Theses things are much easier said then done. Christ offers the grace we need to be a more merciful person than we could on our own. He also teaches us in the Lord’s prayer that we will be forgiven insofar as we forgive others. The more we offer mercy the more we will receive and the more we will be like God.
- If John the Baptist were to offer you advice, what would it be?
- Would he see an injustice that you could correct or an opportunity for mercy you could take?
- Reflect on the mercy God and others have shown you. Offer God and those persons your gratitude.
- Pray about the works of mercy and write a list of ways that you could incorporate them into your life.
Make a Resolution (Practical Application):
- Do one work of mercy each day.
- Offer a prayer for those who have shown you mercy.
- Receive the sacrament of Confession.
- Visit the Vatican website for the Jubilee of Mercy and read some of Pope Francis’ reflections: http://www.im.va/content/gdm/en.html
- Pope Francis has written a prayer for the Jubilee year you can pray each day: http://www.im.va/content/gdm/en/giubileo/preghiera.html
* Image at the top of the post: Pope Francis embraces a patient at St. Francis of Assisi Hospital, where the pontiff addressed a group of recovering drug addicts, offering them a message of compassion and hope on July 24, 2013, in Rio de Janeiro. CNS photo
~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2015
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